SC Dismisses PIL Seeking To Make Bribery & Other Election Offences Cognizable, Punishable With Min 2-Yr Jail Term

SC Dismisses PIL Seeking To Make Bribery & Other Election Offences Cognizable, Punishable With Min 2-Yr Jail Term

The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a petition seeking a minimum punishment of two years for electoral offences, including bribery, false statement, undue influence.

The plea, filed by BJP leader and Advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, was dismissed by a bench comprising Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, Justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice DY Chandrachud.

Mr. Upadhyay’s petition had reiterated the proposal made by the Election Commission of India in February 1992, when it had demanded that election offences should be made cognizable with minimum two years of imprisonment.

He had now contended that election offences have caused injury to the public and have affected free and fair elections, while submitting that “2000 onwards, not only the Parliament and State Assembly General Election, even in the by-election; bribery is used to support particular political parties and candidates, which is against the basic dictum of democracy and free and fair election in spirit of Articles 14, 19 and 324 of the Constitution of India”.

He had pointed out that the punishments currently being imposed were prescribed way back in 1920, submitting, “These punishments were provided far back in 1920. Considering the gravity of election offences under the aforesaid sections in the context of free and fair elections, the Election Commission in 1992 proposed that punishments for above-stated election offences should be enhanced to 2 years and made cognizable. Since 1992, the ECI has reiterated its proposals many times but the successive governments did nothing to implement the suggestions.”

Mr. Upadhyay had therefore demanded a direction to the Centre to make electoral offences such as bribery, undue influence, personation, false statement, illegal payments and non-filing of election accounts, cognizable offences with minimum two years of imprisonment.

In the alternative, he had also demanded that the words “or with fine, or with both” occurring in Sections 171E and 171F of the IPC be declared as arbitrary, irrational and contrary to Articles 14, 19 and 324 of the Constitution of India. Bribery, undue influence and personation at elections are electoral offences under Sections 171E and 171F respectively of the IPC. However, these offences are non-cognizable, with punishment provision of one year’s imprisonment or fine, or both.