Despite the rallying calls for “Clean Election” spearheaded by the church, the prevalence of vote-buying during elections in Mokokchung is like the elephant in the room. This time, we ask a legal expert to explain how the ‘cash-for-vote’ stands in legal terms.
CT Jamir, Senior Advocate, Gauhati High Court, Kohima Bench, said that cash-for-vote is illegal and a corrupt practice.
“With regard to the corrupt practices, the relevant law is governed by Representation of People’s Act (RPA), 1951,” he said and explained that Section 123 talks about corrupt practices where 123 (1) talks about bribery and 123 (2) talks about ‘undue influence’.
He also discussed section 123 (6), which limits election expenditure for candidates and how unauthorized expenditures are a violation of the law. According to the ECI, the expenditure limit for a candidate in Nagaland is Rs. 40 Lakh.
Bribery, according to the act, is any gift, offer, or promise of any gratification, to any person whomsoever, by a candidate or his agent or by any other person with the consent of a candidate or his election agent, with the object, directly or indirectly, of inducing a person to withdraw or not withdraw from being a candidate; or by inducing an elector to vote or refrain from voting at an election.
According to the senior advocate, the Indian Penal Code (IPC) contains punishment provisions for such crimes. Bribery is governed by IPC Section 171 (B), and the punishment for bribery is a year in prison or a fine, or both, according to IPC Section 171 (E).
Despite the fact that ‘cash-for-vote’ is a punishable offence under Indian Penal Code, he believes that ‘ignorance of the law’ and ‘economic backwardness’ are two of the main reasons why people engage in activities like vote selling.
“People should be educated about such laws because an enlightened individual would not engage in such practices,” he said.
He went on to say that “some people are waiting for the election to come because this is the only time for them to make some money,” implying that “we are poor and should accept it.”
He mentioned how active the Clean Election initiative is in Mokokchung and called it a good step, but added that he is skeptical of it, saying, “Why, because we are poor.”
“We are dependent on someone. Although you live in Mokokchung, you are dictated by someone in Kohima, whereas if you live in a village, you will be dictated by someone in Mokokchung because they are responsible for your welfare. So, alongside instilling knowledge of how to sustain ourselves, we should work hard and earn through honest means,” he said.
“If we can earn enough money through hard work, we can even provide for society,” he said, adding that addressing economic backwardness and becoming self-reliant is critical.
He also mentioned how the Church can play a critical role because, “We do not have many platforms so as to educate the masses.”
“Since 99% of us are Christians, the church should play a key role in educating the masses. Human problems are complex,” he added.
Appreciating the enforcement agencies for initiating the seizure of cash, drugs and liquor, he said that any movement should be a continuous movement if they wish to see real change.
Apart from bribery, the senior advocate explained how undue influence in elections is illegal under RPA, 1951, Section 123 (2) and is governed by IPC Section 171 (C) and punishable by a year in prison, a fine, or both under IPC Section 171 (F).
An ‘undue influence’ is an attempt to interfere on the part of the candidate or his agent, or of any other person by threatening the candidate or an elector with social ostracism, excommunication or expulsion from any caste or community, etc.
He also explained how the recent BJP-Christian issue may fall under corrupt practices under RPA,1951, Section 123 (3) which talks about “to vote or refrain from voting for any person on the ground of his religion, race, caste, community or language.”
The senior advocate went on to say that advising voters on religious grounds, such as “Christians should not vote for BJP because they belong to Hindu religion or are Hindu fanatics,” and vice versa, as well as other similar incidents, all fall into this category.
Under the same law, he explained how villages such as Mongsenyimti, Longkhum, and Chungtia made decisions to vote for a specific candidate, causing the aggrieved person to go to the High Court, where the HC quashed such resolutions, forcing the villages to withdraw their resolutions.
However, he believes that because Nagaland is a tribal society and community based on villages, “it is very difficult to refuse once the village council dictates, especially in the villages because you are excommunicated and all these things are based on our culture.”
“However, election is not our culture, it is Indian democracy. Because the function of elections does not exist in our culture, elections are held in accordance with the law established by the constitution. As a result, it should not be mixed with our culture. But our social system is so deeply rooted in the villages that people used to obey out of fear of being excommunicated or social outcasts; otherwise, it is not legally sustainable,” he said.
“Any culture and custom that is not taking us forward should be abandoned and abolished, and we should adopt the new system and method in the society that will take us to the future like advance and develop,” he added.
Commenting on how corruption prevails, despite many laws in existence to curb such corrupt practices, he said, “Irrespective of how many laws we make, unless people realize their values, it will not be possible to control each and every one. It will be impossible to control every single person. Human problems are limitless,” he said. He went on to say that in some cases, there may be no law.
“However, it is dependent on human consciousness and civic sense. People adopt certain behaviors in order to live in a civilized society, so unless we change our moral and ethical values and attitudes, only making the law will not solve the problem,” he said, adding “It’s not just a Naga or an Indian problem; it’s a global problem,” he added.
Nonetheless, he believes that the Church can play a significant role by making the ‘Clean election campaign’ a continuous movement and not stop it even after the election and also, by educating the masses.
(This is the third of a 3-part series)
Read more: Incidence of vote-buying during elections in Mokokchung – Part 1
Read more: Incidence of vote-buying during elections in Mokokchung – Part 2
32 thoughts on “Incidence of vote-buying during elections in Mokokchung – Part 3 | Ignorance of the law and economic backwardness main reasons for vote-selling”
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