Corrupt Practices under Election Law
Corrupt practices are generally the practices used by corrupt politicians to influence the voters during the election process. Section 2(c) of the Representation of people act, 1951 simply says that corrupt practices means any practices specified in section 123 of the act. Various corrupt practices under section 123 are bribery, undue influence, appeal on the ground of religion, race, caste, community or language, publication of false statement, free conveyance, incurring excessive election expenditure, booth capturing and procuring the assistance of government servants. Penal provisions are also in force for the offences of bribery, undue influence, illegal payments, false statements and failure to keep election accounts and also in addition several electoral offences are prescribed by the representation of people act, 1951.
The Supreme Court in a leading case held that, to ensure that the elections are held in free and fair manner enabling men of high moral and ethical values to win, the law has laid down certain rules of electoral morality and prohibited certain acts of commission and omission which sully the purity of elections and have corrupting influence and vitiating effect on the outcome of elections. These acts have been branded as ‘corrupt practices’.
Corrupt practices is basically a general term and include bribery, undue influence etc. having specific reference to electoral systems. Such practices were declared against the law by many nations in the beginning of 19th century as these were considered interferences in the free exercise of right to vote. In later years legislation acquired a new dimension and covered many more aspects including the size of expenditure, contribution and the specification of purposes for which money could be spent.
Corrupt practices according to Section 2(c) of the Representation of people act, 1951 simply says that corrupt practices means any practices specified in section 123 of the act. Various corrupt practices under section 123 are bribery, undue influence, apeal on the ground of religion, race, caste, community or language, publication of false statement, free conveyance, incurring excessive election expenditure, booth capturing and procuring the assistance of government servants. Penal provisions are also in force for the offences of bribery, undue influence, illegal payments, false statements and failure to keep election accounts and also in addition several electoral offences are prescribed by the representation of people act, 1951.
The role of corrupt practices in elections assumes new dimensions more particularly when the candidates and the political parties to which they belong are bent upon to win the election by using all means fair or foul. They try to over step the limits laid down by law on one pretext or the other. Such instances have been seen in two situations. First, where the corrupt practice is difficult to prove for the rival candidate, it is easy for the other candidate to destroy evidence, and secondly, where the alleged activity falls short of the corrupt practice, the candidate can still achieve the desired result. This makes the role of law a futile exercise. For example, the corrupt practice concerning excessive expenditure is well defined and its application is regulated by the Conduct of Election Rules under the representation of people act, 1950.
In India the law relating to corrupt practices was for the first time introduced by the government of India act, 1919. The law was virtually a reproduction of the provisions of the British act of 1883 with slight modifications. The Indian Election offences and inquiries act, 1920 which also introduced certain amendments in the Indian penal code, disqualified persons found guilty of corrupt practices. The corrupt practices order, 1936 did not make any significant change in the existing provisions regarding corrupt practices. The position continued till the enactment of representation of people act, 1951, the first statue enacted by our parliament to regulate matters concerning elections including corrupt practices. Emergence of concept of corrupt practices has remained closely connected with the system of election of representatives in all democratic countries of the world. The basic thrust behind the evolution of the concept of corrupt practices has been to enable a voter to exercise his right to vote freely and fearlessly. It is also an injunction to all those who may like to win elections by employing means which are not only undesirable, unethical but are also prohibited by specific legislation.
TYPES OF CORRUPT PRACTICES
- ✔ Bribery
- ✔ Undue influence
- ✔ Appeal on ground of religion
- ✔ Publication of false statement
- ✔ Free conveyance
- ✔ Excessive election expenditure
- ✔ Booth capturing
- ✔ Seeking assistance of government servants
The conclusion emerges that free and fair elections are the foundation of a democratic form of Government. The democratic set up of the government may be threatened if elections are not held in a free and fair manner. To ensure this purity of electoral process, it becomes essential that the law should extend full protection to the electorates against any fear, injury, misrepresentation, fraud and other undesirable practices which may be indulged in by or on behalf of candidates at an election. In order to protect the voters as well as the rival candidates against such intimidation or malpractices. Law has declared certain activities as corrupt practices. To ensure purity of electoral process as well as the implementation of the law and the rules relating to election, the Constitution of India has by virtue of the provisions contained in Article 324 entrusted this task to an independent authority known as the Election Commission. It may not be out of place to mention here that in the pre-independence era, the Government of India Act, 1919 was the first legislation and the rules framed thereunder declared corrupt practices as a ground to set aside election of a returned candidate if he was found guilty, personally or through any person of committing corrupt practices in the election. The Indian Election Offences and Enquiries Act, 1920 disqualified persons found guilty, of corrupt practices. It also amended the Indian Penal Code to include electoral offences in the code. Interestingly the provisions were a virtual reproduction of the British Corrupt and Illegal Practices included bribery, undue influence, personating publication of false statements, illegal expenditure in excess of the prescribed limit and failure to file return or to file false return of election expenses. The minor corrupt practices included those which were indulged in without the connivance of the candidate or his agent personation, receipt of bribe, payment for conveyance of elector, hiring or use of public conveyance, including expense without authority the hiring of liquor shops, and the issue of circulars without printed and publishers name. Letter on the Corrupt Practice Order, 1936 does not make any significant changes in the provisions regarding corrupt practices except dividing them into three parts on the basis of penalty and disqualifications attached to them.