New Delhi: After huge cash interceptions and seizure of Rs 215 crore of unaccounted money during previous Assembly polls, the Election Commission has put in place an expenditure monitoring mechanism for curbing misuse of money power during general elections.
Noting that money-power creates an uneven playing field and lack of fair competition where certain sections are put to disadvantage while undermining the law, the EC has deployed nodal officers in each state who will coordinate with EC.
The Commission also held a meeting on February 13 of all nodal officers for expenditure monitoring, excise, income tax and police departments alongwith that in the office of Chief Electoral Officer in states to ensure coordination to help curb use of money power.
The EC stressed on interpersonal communication through state/Government of India units of Income Tax to track illegal cash, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) and Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) to track drugs, Enforcement Directorate to track foreign Exchange, Police Department and Excise Department of the respective states to check other crimes related to bribery, terror, theft, narcotics, illegal liquor and abuse of money power in poll involving a candidate, his agent or any political party.
"A strict vigil is maintained over the movement of cash through airports/airstrips/Helipads and a standard operating procedure (SOP) has been developed and implemented by the Bureau of Civil Aviation in consultation with the Commission," the EC said.
While CISF keeps strict vigil at airports of states to stop illegal movement of cash/bullion involving any candidate, his agent or any political party, the Ministry of Civil Aviation has been asked to operate Air Intelligence Units (AIUs) in all airports till the end of polls so as to keep track of and report of any illegal cash movement.
The EC has also asked Centre`s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) to provide real time information on suspicious cash transactions in banks and to keep a close watch on withdrawal of cash exceeding the specified limits from bank accounts.
At present, a candidate or his agent can carry cash up to Rs 50,000 but for anything above it he will be held for questioning and is liable for seizure. The public can, however, carry cash but should be able to explain the purpose of the cash when questioned.
The BSF and SSB have been requested to keep strict vigil over movement of illegal items and cash meant to influence voters through international borders.
The EC said cases of candidates, who have not filed correct election expenditure statements, have been processed for disqualification under Section 10A of the R.P. Act, 1951.
As part of the election expenditure monitoring, the poll body has sought opening of a separate bank account by each contesting candidate for incurring all major election expenses through cheque or demand draft drawn on this bank account only.
It has also set up a complaint-monitoring cell in each district with round-the-clock toll free number to receive complaint from the public.
It has also set up flying squads, quick response teams, static surveillance teams headed by Executive Magistrates in each constituency to track illegal cash transaction or any distribution liquor or any items for bribing or inducement of voters and to attend to all complains of election expenditure.
All airports in the state, major railway stations, hotels, farm houses, `hawala` agents, financial brokers, cash couriers, pawn brokers and other suspicious agencies or persons engaged in movement of cash are to be kept under close surveillance by the Income Tax Department and necessary action to be taken as per the provisions of the Income Tax Act.