New Delhi: The Ministry of Law and Justice increased the maximum expenditure limit for Lok Sabha and Assembly polls ahead of the Bihar Assembly elections and by-polls in other states amid coronavirus pandemic

In a notification on Monday night, the ministry decided to increase the maximum expenditure from Rs 70 lakh to Rs 77 lakh by a candidate while contesting Lok Sabha elections. In smaller states, the cap has been raised from Rs 54 lakh to Rs 59 lakh.

The poll expenditure limit of candidates in Lok Sabha and Assembly elections has been increased by 10 percent. The Centre revised the expenditure limit in consultation with the Election Commission of India.

Accordingly, the amount has been hiked from Rs 28 lakh to Rs 30.8 lakh for Assembly polls. The states with Rs 20 lakh expenditure limit will effect an upward revision to Rs 22 lakh.

The notification, which amended the Conduct of Elections Rules, does not specifically mention the pandemic as a reason for the revised poll expenditure limits, or whether it is limited only to polls slated amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The amended rules, the notification said, “shall come into force on the date of their publication in the Official Gazette and remain in force till such date as may be notified by the central government.”

Earlier, the Election Commission had recommended 10 percent hike in expenditure limits for all elections scheduled amid the pandemic. This hike was recommended in the backdrop of curbs imposed to limit public gatherings, which directly affect campaigning strategies deployed by different candidates who would then have to look for alternatives to election rallies. 

The expenditure limit, however, varies from state to state. Around 20 states and two Union Territories of Delhi and Jammu and Kashmir are in the Rs 30.8 lakh/Rs 77 lakh category and eight states and UT of Puducherry in the Rs 22 lakh/Rs 59 lakh limit category.

In Bihar, the Assembly polls will be held on October 28, November 3, and November 7. Bypolls are also scheduled for one Lok Sabha seat and 59 Assembly seats in different states. Most Assembly bypolls are slated for November 3. In Bihar, the bypolls to Valmiki Nagar Lok Sabha seat and three Assembly seats in Manipur are scheduled on November 7.

Notably, the poll expenditure limit was earlier revised upwardly ahead of the 2014 general elections.

PCI advisory on publishing articles predicting poll results

Ahead of Bihar polls and bypolls in various states, the Press Council of India today asked the print media to refrain from publishing any article that in any manner predicts the results of the upcoming elections between October 28-November 7.

In a statement, the Press Council of India advised the print media to refrain from publishing any article which in any way predicts the results of the elections during the prohibited period to ensure free, fair, and transparent elections.

The PCI said, “The print media is hereby advised not to publish/publicise any such article of results, during the prohibited period i.e. Between 7.00 AM on October 28 and 6.30 PM on November 7 in the current general election to the state legislative Assembly of Bihar, 2020 to ensure free and fair elections.” 

The Council said it is of the view that the prediction of results of elections in any form or manner by way of predictions etc. By astrologers, tarot readers, political analysts or by any persons during the prohibited period is violation of the spirit of Section 126A which aims to prevent constituencies still going to polls from being influenced in their voting by such prediction.

EC bans publication of uncertified ads

The Election Commission has barred parties, candidates, and others from publishing political advertisements on polling day and a day prior to it the three-phases of the Bihar polls unless their contents are pre-certified by screening committees.

The same restriction will apply to the Valmiki Nagar Lok Sabha by-poll in Bihar to be held on November 7. The Commission has used its constitutional powers under Article 324 of the Constitution to take the decision. The EC had taken such a decision for the first time in the 2015 Bihar polls.

Its proposal to ban political advertisements on election day and a day before has been pending with the law ministry for a few years.

Currently, only the electronic media is barred from showing election publicity material during the last 48 hours before the conclusion of polling.

(With Agency Inputs)

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