Gujarat HC seeks clarification from EC on cash seizure norms



Ahmedabad: The Gujarat High Court on Tuesday sought clarification from the Election Commission on PILs complaining harassment in the wake of the enforcement of Model Code of Conduct regarding seizure of more than Rs 2.5 lakh cash in transit in the poll-bound state.

The division bench of Chief Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya and Justice JB Pardiwala, during the hearing of two PILs today that have sought to know under which legal provisions the Election Commission was using its powers to intercept and seize cash in transit.

"Section 77 of the Representation of Peoples Act, 1950 gives power to EC only after the issuance of notification for filing of nominations," the bench observed.

Earlier, counsel for the petitioners Bhaskar Tanna had argued that as per the provisions laid out in the Constitution and Representation of the People Act 1951, the Election Commission has no powers to carry out surprise searches and seizures of cash before the nomination of candidates.

The bench has also asked when there was a strict watch of Income-tax department and Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) what prompted EC to pro-actively act in such a manner.

In the reply, counsel for the Election Commission Percy Kavina had argued that since Article 324 of the Constitution confers absolute powers to the Commission for "superintendence, direction and control" of conduct of all the elections, the EC has the power to curb the flow of unaccounted money during this election period.

The high court was hearing a PIL filed by NGO Bhagyoday Jan Parishad and another by Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) challenging the cash seizures by the Static Surveillance Team (SST) of the EC.

Further hearing in the case is likely to continue on Wednesday when as per the court's instructions all parties will limit their submissions only to the point of constitutional validity of these measures adopted by the EC, ie, whether and to what extent these powers do not conflict with the fundamental rights of citizens.

PTI