Home Ministry prepares to turn Electoral Bribery into a cognizable offence

This is largely being seen as the first poll reform endorsed and initiated by the Modi government. If the Union Home Ministry’s new draft on the matter is successfully induced in the government machinery, electoral bribery will soon be recognized as cognizable offence punishable under the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).

A cognizable offence does not require a police officer to have a warrant in order to make an arrest. Apart from that, in case of cognizable offences, the cops are also allowed to kick start an investigation even if does not have any prior permission from a court.

At present, bribing voters – be it in cash or kind – is a non-cognizable offence which attracts a maximum punishment of one year in imprisonment or a fine.

The Election Commission of India had asked the Home Ministry to amend the first schedule of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, and make electoral bribing a cognizable offence and increase the punishment to up to two years.

The government accepted the suggestion and confirmed the move to the poll panel through a letter dated December 22, 2014.

“Other electoral reforms are with the law ministry and they have sent it to the Law Commission for their suggestions on it,” said a senior EC official.

“This is required for us to take any effective action. Without a warrant you can’t even search the house of person who could be hiding Rs 20 lakh at home to distribute among voters at night,’ said another EC official, not authorized to speak to media, as reported by the ET.

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