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Elections are considered to be a process to achieve democracy and are an indispensable element in the establishment and continuation of any democracy. India has a constitution that guarantees its people a constitutional democracy. The Constitution of India gives a scheme of democratic bodies/posts as well as an independent constitutional authority bestowed with the function of conduct of free and fair elections, namely the Election Commission. A free and fair election is an indispensable part of Indian democracy. Corrupt practices and offences related to the election are those which interfere in the free exercise of the right to vote and include bribery, undue influence, etc. It is very essential for us to study and understand electoral offences, penalties, and disqualification.
The opportunity of decision is known as the embodiment of a popularity based political race. In every fair country, the political race/determination of a specific individual of their decision among different possibilities for releasing certain obligations is viewed as the regular right of a person. Degenerate practices and offenses identified with the political race are those which meddle in the free exercise of the option to cast a ballot and incorporate pay off, excessive impact, and so on.
The electing offenses under the IPC are identified in section IXA under the heading of ‘Offenses Relating to Elections’. This section was embedded in the Code over 90 years back in 1920 by the Indian Elections Offenses and Inquiries Act 1920 when the idea of races in a restricted manner was presented in a portion of the authoritative bodies under the Government of India Act 1919. Under IPC, the electing offenses are:
- Bribery (Section 171B) –
A person is said to commit bribery if he/she gives delight to someone for the purpose of inducing that person to exercise his/her right to vote, or as a reward, after that person has exercised his/her right to vote after being induced. The person who takes such bribes and is induced to exercise his or her right to vote differently is also guilty of the offense of bribery.
For this part, an individual is said to give delight when they offer/endeavor to give/offer or endeavor to secure satisfaction. The individual tolerating or endeavoring to get satisfaction for evolving his/her pre-chosen course and acting as per the wish of the one giving such delight will be said to have gotten delighted.
The Supreme Court took the meaning of ‘Gratification’ by alluding to Section 123(1)(b) of the Representation of Peoples Act and saw that satisfaction isn’t confined to monetary delight or that which are respectable in cash and would incorporate all types of diversion and all types of work for remuneration notwithstanding genuine political decision costs.
A person who commits an offense of bribery shall be punished with imprisonment of up to one year or a fine, or both, in accordance with the provisions of Section 171E. However, a person who is bribed by an act of treatment shall be liable to pay a fine only. “Treating” means the provision or acceptance of food, drink, entertainment, or provision as a reward.
- Undue Influence at an election (Section 171C) –
Undue influence alludes to the willful interference or an endeavor to intrude on the free exercise of a discretionary right. Obstruction with the free exercise of an electing directly, according to this Section incorporates:
- Threatening (with a physical issue of any sort) an up-and-comer or a citizen or an individual in whom an up-and-comer/elector is keen on, or;
- Misdirecting or endeavouring to initiate an applicant/elector to accept that they, or any individual that they are keen on, will be exposed to Divine disappointment or profound scold.
Exercise of a lawful right with no mala fide goal to meddle with somebody’s democratic right, the revelation of public approach, or a guarantee of public activity doesn’t consider obstruction according to the importance of this part. According to Section 171F, unnecessary impact at a political decision is culpable with detainment which may reach out to one year, or a fine, or both.
On account of Ram Dial v. Sant Lal, the Supreme Court looked at whether a demonstration would be considered to comprise ‘undue influence’ exclusively subsequent to having a genuine impact. The Court explained that dissimilar to how it is in the English law, under the Indian law, what is material isn’t the genuine impact created, however, the commission of such goes about as are determined to meddle with the free exercise of any constituent right.
- Personating at an election (Section 171D) –
Section 171D states that an individual endeavoring to cast a ballot twice or vote by utilizing out of line implies is liable of the offense of personation. Everyone is to make their own choice. For instance, an individual applying for a democratic paper by utilizing another person’s name regardless of whether living or dead, or under an invented name, or has cast a ballot in such a political decision and needs to cast a ballot again is liable of personation. An individual abetting or endeavoring to acquire a democratic paper by utilizing some other individual for their motivation will likewise be blameworthy of the offense of personation.
The essence of the violation is, therefore, that the offender pretends to be anything other than what he really is. It implies a fake identity. In order to prove a person, it is essential to show that the offender has a guilty mind or a corrupt motive. Therefore, if an elector has his name appearing on two different lists in the polling station, on the basis of which he believes he had 2 votes, he cannot be held guilty under this section. Similarly, if a son votes on behalf of his very sick father, he feels that he should be allowed to do so. Under these circumstances, the son cannot be found guilty under this section.
Note that an individual approved to cast a ballot as an intermediary for a ballotter under any law which is the power around then will not be liable for this offense. Personation at a political race is culpable with detainment which may stretch out to one year, or a fine, or both according to Section 171F.
- False Statement in connection with an election (Section 171G) –
Section 171G states that whoever makes/distributes an assertion openly, knowing/trusting it to be bogus or not trusting it to be valid, and camouflaging it to be an assertion of reality, with an endeavor to ensure the character or direction of a contender to upset the aftereffect of races will be culpable with fine. To invoke Section 171G, it is, therefore, appropriate to demonstrate that:
- Elections were imminent;
- A statement was made or released by the accused;
- The personal character or actions of the opposing candidate was concerned in that statement;
- The purpose behind the publication of the statement affected the election outcomes;
- The defendant who made the statement was aware of or understood that the statement was false or that it was assumed to be false or that it was not valid.
- Illegal payments in connection with elections (Section 171(h)) –
Section 171(h) provides that an individual responsible for causing/approving costs to advance his or her political race, which may include holding public meetings, questioning and answering sessions, advertising, booklets or distributions, with no broad or unique expert recorded as a hard copy of a competitor, will be culpable with a fine which may reach out to Rs. 500.
Be that as it may, if such an individual, who has borne costs not surpassing Rs.10 without power figures out how to acquire expert recorded as a hard copy of the up-and-comer inside the space of days from the date on which such costs were caused, this arrangement would not be material as such individual would be considered to have acted with the consent of the up-and-comer.
- Failure to keep election accounts (Section 171 (i)) –
According to Section 171(i) of the Code, an individual who is answerable for saving a record for the costs caused regarding a political race, according to the law which is in power around then or according to a standard which has the power of law, when neglects to do as such, will be culpable with a fine which may stretch out up to Rs. 500.
Reforms proposed by Fifth Law Commission: –
- Recalling the ‘electoral rights’ concept, although it does not specifically apply to the right of the candidate to withdraw his candidacy in an election. The meaning should be changed to include ‘withdrawing or not withdrawing’ his candidacy.
- For clear comprehension, the clause covering bribery and the penalty for the same should be clubbed together.
- Increasing the penalty for the crime of bribery in view of its severity and seriousness.
- There should be a stricter description instead of making such a vague definition of “undue influence.” It was also proposed that any violent method of interfering with the free exercise of an electoral right should be further stated in the definition.
- Following the previous proposal on bribery, the Commission proposed putting together the personality crime in the 171D election and the penalty for the same 171F election.
- The Commission suggested that, because of the nature of the crime and its effect on the candidate and the whole electoral system, the penalty for making such false statements should be reconsidered and strengthened.
- Instead of reducing it to a fine only, it proposed adding incarceration for a period of up to 2 years.
Important case laws: –
- E Anoop v State of Kerala, 2012 –
The petitioner allegedly appeared at the polling station at the Mokeri Government U.P. School in the district of Peringalam, and changed his name, and introduced himself at the polling booth as Kuttikkattu Pavitharan. While he was not the individual he claimed to be, he did so to receive a voting document, nor was he a person belonging to that constituency/booth. The court found him guilty under Sections 171D and 171F of the crime of personality.
- Raj Raj Deb vs Gangadhar, 1962–
The petitioner charged that during election campaigns in the district of Satyapadi, where he claimed that he was “Chalanti Bishnu” himself, the appellant wrongly used this fact to his advantage and induced people to vote for him by claiming that if they do not do so, they would displease Lord Jagannath himself and that every vote given to him was a vote given to Lord Jagannath. The court ruled that it was in violation of IPC Section 171F.
- Veeraghavan v. Rajnikanth, 1997 –
Mr. Rajnikanth, the respondent, is an established film actor with a massive fan following throughout India and especially in Tamil Nadu. The petitioner, a Supreme Court lawyer, accused him of exercising undue control over individuals as the respondent provided a tele-campaign briefing on the night of the election in which he urged the voters to accept Rs 500 or Rs 1000 from the petitioner and not vote for him yet.
The concern was whether IPC Section 171B, which deals with bribery and IPC Section 171C, which deals with undue control, would attract this.
The speech, as it was translated, claimed that Tamil Nadu’s voters could not be manipulated and compromised by these tactics; therefore, if the opponent offered money as a voting bargain, do not hesitate and accept it, but still openly exercise their legal rights as it was not possible to buy the citizens of Tamil Nadu.
The Court claimed that in the speech, the respondent never instructed him to request and receive a bribe. The objectionable speech was not so offensive and the electorate had no trace of a mandate or restriction to refrain from doing what they wanted to do. The above IPC parts were not applicable and the respondent was not guilty of any crime and the case was dismissed.
It is clear that these age-old penalties have become largely obsolete and not so stringent to deter the crimes from continuing. Any candidate running in the elections aims to win and sees themselves as the most viable alternative. They can take unfair means and tamper with the fair process of carrying out elections to work towards this objective. In order to ensure a fair election process, offences relating to elections need to be taken seriously and the sentence revised. It is appropriate to consider the recommendations of the Fifth Law Commission and to make adjustments accordingly.
 Mohan Singh v. Bhanwarlal AIR 1964 SC 1366
 Ram Dial v. Sant Lal AIR 1959 SC 855
 KI Vibhute, PSA Pillai’s CRIMINAL LAW, 410 (12th edition, 2014), LexisNexis
 PantamVenkayya v Emperor AIR 1930 Mad 246
 State v. Siddhannath Gangaram (1956) CrLJ 1327 (MP)
Author: Jaya Singh
Editor: Kanishka Vaish, Senior Editor, LexLife India.