In a democratic country like India, an election is a requisite procedure which is followed to ensure smooth running of government and its conduction is difficult and highly expensive in populous country like India. An election must be regulated by stringent laws for its fair maintenance for which under Indian Penal Code, 1860, Chapter IX A deals with the offences relating to election.
The sections related to election are provided from Section 171A to Section 171I. Firstly in an election the involvement of population is most required and their right to exercise their power which has been designated as the terms which are ‘candidate’ and ‘electoral right’ in Section 171A (a) and (b) of IPC. According to Section 171A, a ‘candidate’ has been defined as an individual who has been nominated at any election and his ‘electoral right’ means the attainment of the right to stand or not to stand or to withdraw from being an eligible candidate or to cast his or her vote or refraining from casting his vote at any election.
An individual, P of age 19 years goes to cast his vote at an election but was not allowed to enter into the premises and cast his vote to elect his choice of representative. Here, P is an eligible candidate and has the lawful electoral right as he possess the minimum age to be an eligible candidate which is 18 years according to universal adult franchise and he is legally entitled to take action against this discrimination.
Concept of free and fair election relates to liberty and equality in terms of political affairs. Free and fair in matters of election means that under the electoral process no one is in bondage of another, having his personal choice, without any coercion or undue influence subjected to a legal discipline. While exercising his right to vote one is not under undue influence of party discipline, religion, caste, creed, sex, language and also one is not under the strain of corrupt practices and so on. Thus, free and fair elections are the core foundations of a democratic form of government.
Section 171B (1) (i) provides for the corrupt practices involved in election procedure that is bribery which is an offence in which whosoever gives a gratification to any individual with the objective of inducing him or any other person to exercise any electoral right or of rewarding any person for having exercised any such right. Section 171B (1) (ii) connotes the acceptance of any gratification for oneself or for any other person as a reward for exercising any such right or for inducing or attempting to induce any other person to exercise any such right, as committing the offence of bribery.
Section 171B (2) explains the term ‘gratification’ which includes any offer by any individual or agrees to give in offer or attempts to procure it is said to be a gratification in terms of giving, Section 171B (3) provides for the gratification in reference to acceptance of it when an individual obtains or agrees to accept or attempts to obtain a gratification and a person who accepts a gratification with the motive in furtherance of the act what he does not intend to do, or as a reward for doing what he has not done, shall be assumed to have accepted the gratification as a reward.
Iqbal Singh v Gurdas Singh[i] –
In this case the appellant filed an election petition alleging of invalidated votes which was obtained on the pretext of distributing huge amount of money to harijans for construction of dharamshalas and the issue of a large number of gun licences in form of gratification to induce voters to vote for the respondent. It was held that the gratification would include only those which would be advantageous to the recipient .Here it was held that was not a gratification since the persons in the village didn’t had gun licence and it was immaterial for them.
Section 171C lays down the offence of undue influence which is committed by a person when he voluntarily interferes or attempts to interfere with the free exercise of any electoral right and 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 keenly interested will be accustomed to displeasure in relation to divinity or of spiritual censure.
If an individual K is an eligible candidate to cast his votes but L threatens him on gunpoint to vote M to whom he didn’t wanted to give instead, he wanted to give vote to N. So, here L is charged for the offence of undue influence under Section 171C.
Shri Baburao Patel& Ors v Dr. Zakir Husain& Ors[ii]
In this case it was observed by the court that a friendly advice or suggestion arising from esteem or gratitude is not covered under undue influence.
Another offence which is mostly done is Personation at elections which is provided in Section 171D which is stated to be committed when any person at an election applies for a voting paper on votes in the name of any another individual, whether living or dead, or in a fictitious name, or who had voted once at such election, again approaches at the same election to vote in his own name, and whoever abets, procures or attempts to procure the voting by such method is said to be committing an offence of personation.
Achcha Bhoomanna v. Court of District Munsif
The Andhra Pradesh High Court observed that what is relevant for the purpose of section 171-D is ‘procuring the voting of a person’ and not ‘procuring the vote’ of a person. Voting by a person in a particular manner is not relevant, that is to say, procuring of a vote is not necessary.
The commission of an offence is punishable and is provided in Sections 171E and 171F respectively for bribery and undue influence or personation at an election. The punishment provided for offence of bribery and undue influence or personation is equivalent that is imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both. The offence of bribery is committed by treating also which includes gratification in form of serving someone with food, drink or entertainment for which liability is fine only.
Raj Raj Deb vs Gangadhar[iii]
In this case, the candidate announced that he was representative of lord Jagannath himself and the one who will not vote him would be a sinner against God. The court held it to be an offence under Section 171F of IPC.
E Anoop v State of Kerala [iv]–
The prosecution alleged that the petitioner personated himself as another legal voter at the election booth and applied for the voting paper in name of another person and was identified by officer in charge at polling booth. The court held that it is enough to apply for voting paper than to attempt so as to commit an offence under Section 171D and was made punishable under Section 171F of IPC.
In Sections 171G it has been provided that an individual commits an offence of making false statements when he makes or publishes false statements with an intention to affect the outcome of an election and which he either have knowledge or believes to be false or does not believe it to be true, in connection to the personal character or conduct of any candidate is punishable with fine.
Section 171H makes it illegal for anyone unless authorized by a candidate to incur expenses in connection with promotion of candidate’s election by means of publication, advertisement and holding public meetings or other methods and shall be punished with fine which may exceed to five hundred rupees. The accounts management related to election has been provided in Section 171I which states that when an individual who has lawful authority to keep check on accounts fails to manage the expenses incurred at time of election or in relation to it shall be punished with fine which may exceed to five hundred rupees.
TN Angami v Smt Ravolueu[v]
In this case, the court held that promises made to general public and general voters not to specific voters do not constitute a corrupt practice and an offence related to election.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)-
1. What is the punishment for any person who was lawfully responsible for accounts related to election?
The punishment for non-performance of such duty has been provided in Section171I of Indian Penal Code, 1860 which is fine and extends to five hundred rupees on failure of keeping the election accounts.
2. What is the electoral offence in relation to personation in Nigeria?
The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended, the Electoral Act 2010, provides for the offence of personation under Section 122 E.A 2010 with the maximum fine of N500, 000 or 12 months imprisonment or both.
[i] AIR 1976 SC 27
[ii] 1968 AIR 904
[iii] AIR 1964 Ori 1
[iv] 2007 CrLJ 2968
[v] AIR 1972 SC 2367
Indian Penal Code , 1860, No. 45
Indian Penal Code – S.N Misra (HB) Ed.2017