INTRODUCTION to Offences Relating To Election-
Elections stand of as paramount in a democracy like India, where a vote of every individual decides the future of the country. Elections in India are worshipped and celebrated like any other festival. Every candidate who contests the election put his blood and sweat to secure the position but still few candidates or party members indulge into malpractices. Therefore, it becomes essentials to understand these offences, punish the culprit and maintain the sanctity of the elections.
The provisions that mark the offences related to elections punishable have been listed in the Indian Penal Code, 1860 under Chapter-IXA. This chapter was added in the Indian Penal Code by the Indian Elections Offences and Inquiries Act. 39 of 1920, Section 2.
These malpractices include undue influence, bribery, personation and any such act which influences the right of the voter to cast a free vote during the election period have been made punishable under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 Section 171-A and 171-I.
- Bribery (Section 171B) is punishable under Section 171E.
- Undue Influence (Section 171C) is punishable under Section 171F.
- Personation (Section 171D) is punishable under Section 171F.
- False Statement in connection to the elections (Section171G).
- Illegal Payments or unauthorized expenditure (Section 171H).
- Failure to keep election accounts (Section 171I).
The primal legislation passed by the Parliament that includes the law of elections was the Representation of People’s Act, 1951 and consequently, it got enlisted in the Indian Penal Code. This endeavour was made so that the rule should not only prevail over the Parliamentary elections but also to the election of the municipalities, panchayats and other bodies of authority.
WHO IS A ‘CANDIDATE’?
The foremost thought that comes to our head when we hear of elections is- Who is the candidate? Therefore it becomes necessary to understand as per the law who is ‘candidate’ and what is their ‘electoral right’. Section 171A of the IPC reads as –
“Candidate” means a person who has been nominated as a candidate at any election;
“Electoral right” means the right of a person to stand, or not to stand as, or to withdraw from being, a candidate or to vote or refrain from voting at an election.
Hence this definitions highlight that any false representation while filing the application paper by a candidate would amount to a violation of electoral rights of other candidates under Section 170A of the Indian Penal Code.
- Bribery- Section 170B, “Whoever-
- Gives a gratification to any person with the object of inducing him or any other person to exercise any electoral right or of rewarding any person for having exercised any such right; or
- Accepts either for himself or of any other person any gratification as a reward for exercising any such right or for inducing or attempting to induce any other person to exercise nay such right, commits the offence of bribery;
- A person who offers, or agrees to give, or offers or attempts to procure, a gratification shall be deemed to give a gratification.
- A person who obtains or agrees to accept or attempts to obtain a gratification shall be deemed to accept a gratification, and a person who accepts a gratification as a motive for doing what he does not intend to do, or as a reward for doing what he has not done, shall be deemed to have accepted the gratification as a reward.”
The punishment for bribery as defined under Section 171E, IPC, reads-
“Whoever commits the offence of bribery shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both;”
Therefore, bribery could be understood as giving or receiving gratification, as an intention or as a reward to another person. This could be done with a motive to influence him to stand or not to stand for the said election, or convince him to withdraw or vote or not to vote. If the court finds the person has committed the offence then he would be rewarded imprisonment to a year or fine or both.
Undue Influence –
Section 171C,“Whoever voluntarily interferes or attempts to interfere with the free exercise of any electoral right commits the offence of undue influence at an election.
Without prejudice to the generality of the provisions of sub-section (1), whoever
- threatens any candidate or voter, or any person in whom a candidate or voter is interested, with injury of any kind, or
- induces or attempts to induce a candidate or voter to believe that he or any person in whom he is interested will become or will be rendered an object of Divine displeasure or of spiritual censure, shall be deemed to interfere with the free exercise of the electoral right of such candidate or voter, within the meaning of sub-section (1).
- A declaration of public policy or a promise of public action, or the mere exercise or a legal right without intent to interfere with an electoral right, shall not be deemed to be interference within the meaning of this section.”
Under this ground, a candidate cannot interfere with the electoral rights of another person. He/she cannot force a person to withdraw from the election or convince him not to vote or to vote for a particular party or person. This becomes necessary in order to host free elections.
- Personation at the election – Section 171D, “Whoever at an election applied for a voting paper or votes in the name of any other person, whether living or dead, or in a fictitious name, or who having voted once at such election applies at the same election for a voting paper in his own name, and whoever abets, procures or attempts to procure the voting by any person in any such way, commits the offence or personation at an election”
Fore mostly, personation refers to the idea of stealing someone’s identity in order to deceive the person. Thus, it becomes necessary to prove the malicious intent of the impersonator. A person found guilty of this offence is punishable under Section 171F which rewards imprisonment for a period of 1 year or fine or both.
- False Statement – Section 171G, “Whoever with intent to affect the result of an election makes or publishes any statement purporting to be a statement of fact which is false and which he either knows or believes to be true, in relation to the personal character or conduct of any candidate shall be punished with fined.”
To invoke Section 171G it becomes necessary to prove (a) impending election; (b) the statement was made or published by the accused; (c) the statement was in pertinence to the other candidate; (d) the motive was against the results of the election and (e) the accused had the knowledge that the statement was false. This ground was established to cease the propagation of malafide statement against competitors.
- Illegal Payments – Section 171H, “Whoever without the general or special authority in writing of a candidate incurs or authorizes expenses on account of the holding of the holding of any public meeting, or upon any advertisement, circular or publication, or in any other way whatsoever for the purpose of promoting or procuring the election of such candidate, shall be punished with fine which may extend to five hundred rupees;”
Under this ground, all the unapproved and unauthorized payments by the candidate are illegal. This prevents spread of corruption during elections. Any candidate found guilty of this offence is fined with five hundred rupees.
- Failure to keep Election Accounts – Section 171I, “Whoever being required by any law for the time being in force or nay rule having the force of law to keep accounts of expenses incurred at or in connection with an election fails to keep such accounts shall be punished with fine which may extend to five hundred rupees.”
Under this ground, all the candidates contesting for the elections are required to maintain their accounts and failure to which may lead to a punishment of fine which may extend to Five Hundred rupees. The motive behind this ground was to maintain checks and balances on the expenses incurred by the candidates.
Elections ensure that the elected body which runs the government is elected in a fair and bonafide manner. The people that form democracy have a legal right to cast their vote freely and elect their representatives. Elections are tried to be carried out without any offence being made but still if such things happen then punishment is awarded to the person committing it.
Sources: Shiv Kripal Singh vs. V.V. Giri AIR 1970 SC 2097.  Universal’s The Indian Penal Code, 1860 BareAct  Universal’s The Indian Penal Code, 1860 BareAct  Universal’s The Indian Penal Code, 1860 BareAct  Universal’s The Indian Penal Code, 1860 BareAct  https://lawtimesjournal.in  https://lawtimesjournal.in
This blog is written by Jaya Singh, Amity University.
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