Government planning to make bribery in polls a cognisable offence

New Delhi: In its bid to check corruption in the poll process, the NDA government is contemplating to amend the law to make bribery -- both cash and kind -- during elections a cognisable offence, empowering police to arrest the violators without a warrant and jail up to two years.

The Home Ministry has recently conveyed to the Election Commission that it has initiated the process to amend the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and a note has been sent to law officers to prepare the draft amendment bill.

"If the draft is prepared on time, we may introduce the amendment bill in Parliament sometime in second half of the
budget session," a Home Ministry official said. The letter of the Home Ministry has been sent to the Election Commission in response to the poll panel's query asking the status of its suggestion to make bribery a
cognisable offence.

A cognisable offence is a crime for which a police officer has the authority to make an arrest without a warrant.
Police are also allowed to start an investigation with or without the permission of a court for cognisable offences.
Currently, bribing voters, in cash or kind, during the electoral process is a non-cognisable offence under sections
171B/171E of the Indian Penal Code, which attracts only up to one-year of imprisonment or fine as punishment.

The Election Commission in 2012 had asked the Home Ministry to amend the first schedule of the Code of Criminal
Procedure 1973, to make it a cognisable offence and also increase punishment to up to two years.

Sources said many officials in the poll panel on several occasions had said in the past that without changes in the
IPC and CrPC, it can do very little as currently bribery is a bailable offence attracting only minimal punishment.
Currently, without a warrant, no house can be searched even if there is specific information that a large amount of
cash is stored there.

Officials feel changes in the law have become necessary as there have been increasing incidents of bribery being detected in all elections -- from local body polls to Lok Sabha elections.

Finding large amount of cash, liquor, clothes, household goods like TV and other gifts has become very common in some
states during electoral process.

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