In run-up to polls, ECI to monitor money transfers

Chief Electoral Officer Rajesh Lakhoni has said that in the run-up to the elections, the ECI will now monitor all money transfers online and that the response time to act upon any violation will be brought down to a matter of few minutes
In run-up to polls, ECI to monitor money transfers

Chennai

Chief Electoral Officer Rajesh Lakhoni has said that in the run-up to the elections, the ECI will now monitor all money transfers online and that the response time to act upon any violation will be brought down to a matter of few minutes. 
At a time when parties tend to go all out on spending for their election campaigns, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has embarked upon a new initiative to help conduct free and fair polls. 
Automated monitoring of online money transfers is the latest arsenal employed by the ECI. This means, for the next three months, every RTGS (real time gross settlement) transfer made online in TN would be under the ECI’s scanner. 
Unlike in the past, when ECI verified reams of papers sent by banks at the end of every day to monitor transactions, the Commission will receive transaction details online.  “If someone transfers money to three people or more in a day and does it frequently, it will be monitored. We will analyse the transaction to see if it’s being done to bribe voters,” Chief Electoral Officer Rajesh Lakhoni said. 
As soon as a complaint about money distribution in some place is received, the location would be immediately fed in to the GPS enabled system, which would locate and instantly send a SMS to the squad or election officer in the vicinity of the location. 
The entire process would consume not more than five minutes. From there, action taken by the field officer would be monitored by the observers among others, the CEO added. He admitted the priority this time would be apprehending those involved in buying off voters. However, monitoring of candidates and parties’ expenditures is another hurdle the ECI is struggling with. 
“No candidate or party has been penalized for spending beyond the stipulated Rs 20 lakh per constituency in the polls in the recent years. This means due diligence is not followed in the expenditure audit carried out by the Commission,” says political commentator A Marx.  
The infamous imposition of section 144 of CrPC during the 2014 Lok Sabha, the lack of transparency in accounting cash seizures postpolls and over-reliance on local revenue staff are other shortcomings which led one to doubt the wherewithal and efficiency of the ECI in conducting free and fair polls in the immediate past. 
Even if an individual is caught distributing cash to voters, only that person is tried under provisions of Indian Penal Code and there is little clarity among ECI officials on whether it would affect the candidate or the party that employed this person. 
Officials’ collusion with parties is another task the ECI would find too daunting to complete in this election too.  
Citizens under watch: 
As soon as the Model Code of Conduct is enforced in poll bound states, the citizens of the state automatically come under the watch of the ECI, with respect to any banking transactions. Also citizens are duty-bound to explain to the ECI, if they carry cash in excess of Rs 50,000.

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