New Delhi

Apprehending increased use of money power and paid news in the forthcoming state elections, chief election commissioner (CEC) Nasim Zaidi has requested the Centre to take urgent measures, including considering an ordinance, to designate the malpractices as specific crimes.

The EC has recommended the Centre to make distribution of money among voters by candidates, their agents and supporters a cognizable offence under the Criminal Procedure Code so that offenders could be arrested without bail. He suggested hiking the jail term for filing a false affidavit from six months to two years which would bar a candidate from contesting for six years.

Such is the dimension of the cash menace that Zaidi suggested enacting a law through the ordinance route.

"If there is a will it can be done through ordinance," he said. Drawing a comparison with booth capturing, which was rampant before 1990, Zaidi said bribery had assumed similar proportions and needed to be dealt with an iron hand. He said the EC was undertaking a clause-byclause review of the Representation of the People Act.

The CEC said paid news was another problem. "At present, we determine which news item is paid news+ and add the expenses incurred to the candidates' expenses, which is Rs 75 lakh for Lok Sabha elections and Rs 28 lakh for assembly elections. But with most candidates reporting poll expenses that are only 50% of the limit, we need to deal with the problem by making it an offence under the RP Act," Zaidi said.

The CEC said filing of false affidavits+ was rampant despite candidates being mandated by the Supreme Court in the association of democratic reforms case in 2002 to declare their antecedents relating to crime, education and wealth. "It is a very serious problem," he said.

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