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EC to revise poll cash fiat

New Delhi, Nov. 26: The Election Commission today agreed before the Supreme Court to modify its earlier order for blanket seizure of any “unexplained cash” of Rs 2.5 lakh or more from any vehicle in poll-bound Gujarat.

It said the fiat would now apply only to candidates and their agents — that is, people unconnected to the polls would not be affected. But with the poll watchdog declining to specify the revised cash amount, the apex court posted the matter for further hearing on Friday.

The commission’s recent directive to its officers to randomly search vehicles and seize allegedly unaccounted-for cash had drawn flak from many businessmen and politicians in the state.

At the previous hearing on November 23, the apex court had questioned the order. It said that although the commission’s intention to check any attempts to bribe voters was laudable, it could not violate the Constitution’s Article 21 (right to liberty) and 19(1)(g), which allows a citizen to carry on any profession or trade.

“No doubt, it is a laudable objective. But this is not the way to do (it). It is hit by Article 21, as they say, and 19(1)(g),” a two-judge bench had said.

“You have so much credibility for so many years. But you should not show over-anxiety. We can’t give you (the) power to determine unexplained money.”

Earlier, several businessmen and other victims of the cash seizures had approached Gujarat High Court, which quashed the commission directive saying there should be no random search or seizure unless the panel had credible information in writing. The poll watchdog had then moved the apex court.

The commission today agreed to issue fresh guidelines stating that “during such checking, if any cash is found in a vehicle carrying a candidate or his agent or party worker or carrying posters or election materials or arms, any liquor or any illicit articles or gift items, and is likely to be used for inducement of the electors, it shall be subject to seizure”.

The court told the panel that the checks and seizures are to be video-graphed and a copy of the film submitted to the returning officer.

It initially passed a “consent order” but later decided on further hearing after counsel Mukul Rohtagi argued that the modified order was vulnerable to misuse because it did not specify the amount.