EC agrees to amend rule on seizure of cash in Gujarat

New Delhi: The Election Commission today agreed before the Supreme Court to amend its blanket order for seizing cash amount above Rs 2.5 lakh in transit during the Gujarat assembly elections.

Appearing before a bench of justices DK Jain and Madan B Lokur, Commission's counsel senior advocate Ashok Desai that the poll panel's July 2012 order will be dropped and amended provision will be placed in the Instruction on Election Expenditure Monitoring order.

Chief Election Commissioner VS Sampath. Image courtesy PIB

After hearing the Commission's plea, the bench first allowed it to amend instruction and passed the order at around 2.30 pm to incorporate the changed provision.

But the matter was again mentioned at 4 pm by the Bhagyoday Jan Parishad and Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which contended that the amended provision is not clear.

The bench then posted the matter for further hearing on Friday.

The bench was hearing an Election Commission's appeal against the Gujarat High Court order which had quashed its orders for seizing cash above Rs 2.5 lakh saying that it was unconstitutional.

The high court, on a PIL by Bhagyoday Jan Parishad and Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry, had on 9 November said that EC's directive to randomly search and seize 'in-transit' cash above Rs 2.5 lakh in poll-bound Gujarat was "unconstitutional" and directed it to immediately stop such
operations.

"The instructions by the EC which empower its officers to randomly search any vehicle and seize cash above Rs 2.5 lakh is ultra vires (beyond powers) being violative of Article 21 of the Constitution, and also beyond the powers conferred on the EC," the high court had said.

"We direct the EC that (such) instructions shall not be implemented and there shall not be any indiscriminate or random search or seizure of any vehicle, unless there is any reliable or credible information with the EC," it had said.

The Election Commission directive, dated 3 October, followed announcement of the state Assembly elections.

EC had deployed 587 static surveillance teams (SSTs) and 182 flying squads in the state, which have so far seized Rs 22.56 crore of unaccounted money, of which Rs 22.20 crore was handed over to the Income Tax department.

The search and seizure drive had caused a lot of resentment in the business community.

PTI