Vicky Nanjappa
New Delhi

The Association for Democratic Reforms, an non-government organisation working for electoral reforms, while supporting Election Commission's order to seize unaccounted cash in poll-bound states, has noted that legitimate business transactions based on cash should not suffer.

ADR's stand comes in response to a public interest litigation filed before the Gujarat high court by the business community seeking "restraint and moderation" of the Election Commission's order that rules the seizure of cash beyond Rs. 2.5 lakh in transit unless the money has been appropriately accounted for.

"ADR and National Election Watch unequivocally support this EC's order that directs citizens to not to travel with more than Rs 2.5 lakh in cash. We consider this as a critically important instrument in the ECI's Election Expenditure Monitoring Mechanism that aims to tackle head-on the alarmingly increasing menace of money power in elections. Ever since the model code of conduct came into application, there are news reports that EC's Static Surveillance Team in Gujarat have already seized more than Rs 10 crore of unaccounted cash in three cases alone -- viz Rs 9.30 crore in a van in Mehsana, Rs 5 lakh in Sabarkantha and Rs 70 lakh from Vijaypur taluka on Himmatnagar-Mehsana road," the ADR said in a statement.

"Earlier, in 12 cases SST intercepted cash of Rs 1.43 crore out of which Rs 1.41 crore was returned as it was accounted legal money," the statement added.

"The efficacy of the cash seizure methods has been proved in several elections in last two years, since the time ECI has started implementing these expense monitoring measures in the elections. There have been record cases of cash seizures across almost all states during elections. The news reports of cash seizures by ECI in Andhra by-polls earlier this year stands at more than Rs 41 crore. The corresponding figures for Tamil Nadu assembly elections in 2011 and UP assembly elections 2012 are Rs 60 crore and 30 crore, respectively," the statement noted.

"In 2009 Lok Sabha elections, more than Rs 100 crore was confiscated by ECI. These are astronomical sums of money and by most estimates just the tip of the amount that actually is in circulation during elections. Major fraction of this is black money procured through illegal hawala transactions,' it added.

"Specifically with respect to the present Gujarat assembly elections that are to be held in December 2012, the elections fall in festive season and not much should be left to imagination if we consider how this atmosphere can be exploited by candidates if certain strategic and effective steps are not taken to monitor and check the election-expenses."

Even the white paper of the United Progressive Alliance [ Images ] government has also recommended in para 6.13 that existing laws should be amended to regulate the possession and transportation of cash. The paper also prescribes putting a limitation on cash holding for private use and confiscation of cash held beyond prescribed limits, it also said.

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