Random searches by EC in Gujarat `unconstitutional`: HC
The Gujarat HC said the EC`s directive to randomly search and seize `in-transit` cash above Rs 2.5 lakh in poll-bound Gujarat was "unconstitutional".
Ahmedabad: The Gujarat High Court on Friday said the EC`s directive to randomly search and seize `in-transit` cash above Rs 2.5 lakh in poll-bound Gujarat was "unconstitutional" and directed it to immediately stop such operations.
Upholding the "right to be let alone", a bench of the high court said, "The instructions by the EC which empower its officers to randomly search any vehicle and seize cash above Rs 2.5 lakh is ultra vires (beyond powers) being violative of Article 21 of the Constitution, and also beyond the powers conferred on the EC."
"Right to be let alone is recognised to be a right which would fall under Article 21," Division bench of Chief Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya and Justice J B Pardivala said, citing a Supreme Court order that a person, as long as he does not break the law, would be entitled to enjoy life and liberty.
"We direct the EC that (such) instructions shall not be implemented and there shall not be any indiscriminate or random search or seizure of any vehicle, unless there is any reliable or credible information with the EC," it said.
The court was hearing a bunch of public interest litigations, filed by Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) and NGO Bhagyoday Jan Parishad among others.
The Election Commission directive, dated October 3, followed announcement of the state Assembly elections.
EC has deployed 587 static surveillance teams (SSTs) and 182 flying squads in the state, which have so far seized Rs 22.56 crore of unaccounted money, of which Rs 22.20 crore was handed over to the Income Tax department.
The search and seizure drive had caused a lot of resentment in the business community, and industry bodies GCCI and ASSOCHAM had complained against it.