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Sad that after 60-70 years after Independence, we are still trying to improve the system: SC on cash seized during elections

The bench comprising Justice N V Ramana J and Justice Mohan M Shantanagouder during the hearing of the case questioned the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) and the Ministry of Finance about the mechanism to deal with cash seizures by the EC.

The Supreme Court (SC) has expressed its concern over the lack of a stringent mechanism for state-wise tracking of the cash seized during elections. India’s apex court expressed its worry about the matter and said these loopholes allow the candidates who sponsor cash during elections to walk scot-free.

According to a report published by DNA, the observation was made by the SC on Friday. The report pointed out to a case in Karnataka, where a businessman who was caught with unaccounted cash by the Election Commission (EC), was acquitted by the Karnataka High Court (HC).

The bench comprising Justice N V Ramana J and Justice Mohan M Shantanagouder during the hearing of the case questioned the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) and the Ministry of Finance about the mechanism to deal with cash seizures by the EC. The bench asked if any case ends up in the prosecution by tracking the source of the illegal money.

In answer to the query, the Income Tax (I-T) authorities informed the bench that there is no provision to account money seized during elections under a separate election or non-election category. The authorities also apprised the court that until 2014, cash seized during elections was released to the Treasury due to the absence of a mechanism to collect data from states to pursue a case individually.

Expressing its displeasure, the bench observed that even after 60-70 years of independence the system still needed improvement. “That is why people who spend loads of money during elections are not worried as only the money is lost, which can be recovered after elections are won. It is sad that after 60-70 years after Independence, we are still trying to improve the system.”

Senior Advocate R Balasubramanium appearing on behalf of the CBDT informed the bench that a mechanism to deal with the menace was under process, the results of which would be evident after the ongoing Lok Sabha elections conclude.

The court directed the Center to submit the details of the extent to which the mechanism has been developed in August. At the same time, it allowed the States to file affidavits regarding the action being taken by them in such cases.

According to the data collected by the Election Commission, Rs 303 crore of unaccounted cash was seized during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The I-T Department has seized large amounts of unaccounted cash during the ongoing Lok Sabha elections as well.

A number of raids were conducted through April, during which unaccounted cash was seized. In a raid conducted at 35 locations connected with Madhya Pradesh CM Kamal Nath, cash stuffed in suitcases was recovered. An astonishing amount of 8 crore rupees was seized by the authorities from the North East region, the highest seizure so far from the region, in the month of April. Similarly, an amount of 4.3 crores was seized by the authorities during raids in Karnataka and Goa.

As reported earlier, the I-T department had carried out a series of raids on close aides of Janata Dal-Secular leaders in Mandya and Hassan districts of Karnataka ahead of the second phase of the Lok Sabha elections.

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Staff reporter at OpIndia

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