EC for raising expenditure limit

Disclosing this on Saturday, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) S Y Quraishi said “there should be no difficulty to get the Law Ministry’s clearance for it.” The EC had proposed to increase the per candidate expenditure limit from the present Rs 10 lakh to Rs 16 lakh for Assembly constituencies and from Rs 25 lakh to Rs 40 lakh to those contesting Lok Sabha elections.

Speaking to reporters here on the sidelines of a National Conference on Electoral and Political Reforms, organised jointly by the Delhi-based NGO, National Election Watch and Association For Democratic Norms (ADR), he said it was reasonable to raise the poll expenditure ceiling considering the inflation.

This step would help to curb the influence of money power in elections “to some extent.” Quraishi, who earlier took a volley of questions at the meet from a largely youth audience at the IIT-Madras, called for putting up the finances of all political parties in the public domain and “have a cap” on expenditure by the political parties also.

Quraishi was here to also discuss with Tamil Nadu officials on preparations for the coming Assembly elections.

Call centres
He said the commission  would set up call centres soon with one all-India number at various places to enable voters directly register complaints related to elections. He took the occasion to urge NGOs to help “man these call centres” in public interest.
Welcoming a suggestion mooted at the conference to involve “mature college students” in supervision of polling booths during the elections, Quraishi said they could be utilised as “micro-observers.” The Election Commission  till now have been employing only government staff for the purpose as “they can be easily caught for any wrongdoing,” he pointed out.

Former CEC N Gopalaswamy, who was also present, said students staying in hostels could henceforth exercise their franchise in elections either in the constituency in which their hostels are located or in their native place.

 Quraishi said during the recent Bihar elections, the EC’s Expenditure Monitoring Division and the Income-Tax officials detected 86 cases of paid news. In 99 per cent of those cases, the candidates “confessed in private” that they had sponsored those news items about them. “Since an element of fraud is involved in paid news, we are considering whether those involved can be also prosecuted under IPC sections dealing with fraud and cheating,” said Quraishi.

On the use of Section 49(O), the voters’ right not to vote against any candidate to express their displeasure, he said the EC basically supported the idea.

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