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Ians

New Delhi: The Election Commission has made record seizures amounting to Rs 331.47 crore under the expenditure monitoring process in Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry, even ahead of the upcoming Assembly polls.

The record seizures have been made even though polling is yet to start in these states/Union Territory, as it is slated between March 27 and April 26.

The seizures have already surpassed the total seizures made in Assembly elections to these states/UT in 2016.

Of the Rs 331 crore seizures, the EC has declared recoveries of cash amounting to Rs 89.48 crore, liquor worth Rs 28.93 crore, drugs valued at Rs 75.67 crore, freebies of Rs 48.52 crore and precious metals worth Rs 88.87 crore.

Maximum (Rs 127.64 crore) recovery was made from Tamil Nadu followed by Rs 112.59 crore recovery from West Bengal, Rs 63.75 crore from Assam, Rs 21.77 crore from Kerala and Rs 5.72 crore from Puducherry. The seizures were done till March 16.

In the 2016 Assembly elections, the commission had made the seizure of Rs 225.77 crore.

The Commission said it has deployed 295 Expenditure Observers in these poll-bound regions for effective monitoring to curb black money.

Besides, it has appointed five Special Expenditure Observers -- Madhu Mahajan, B.R. Balakrishnan, B. Murali Kumar, Neena Nigam and Pushpinder Singh Puniha.

Ex-Indian Revenue Service (IT) officer of 1982 batch Mahajan and Balakrishnan (ex-IRS (IT) of 1983 batch) are the Special Expenditure Observers for Tamil Nadu. Kumar, an ex-IRS officer of the 1983 batch, is handling West Bengal; Nigam, an ex-IRS of the 1983 batch, is taking care of Assam; and Puniha, an ex-IRS of 1985 batch, of Kerala.

"These officers having formidable domain expertise and impeccable track record are deputed for more effective election expenditure monitoring," the EC said.

After due assessment, 259 Assembly constituencies have been marked as Expenditure Sensitive Constituencies for more focussed vigil, it added.

On expenditure monitoring, the Commission has convened various meetings with senior officials of Enforcement Agencies of poll-bound states and the UT.

Seeking the importance of central enforcement agencies in election expenditure monitoring process, the Commission has also convened a meeting of Revenue Secretary, Chairman CBDT, Chairman CBIC and Director Financial Intelligence Unit-India.

"With the drive for curbing inducements which vitiate electoral process intensifying, the seizure figures are expected to rise further," the EC said.

Distribution of money, liquor, or any other item disbursed and given to the electors with the intent to influence them during electoral process is not permitted under the law. This expenditure comes under the definition of "bribery" which is an offence. The expenditure on such items is illegal.

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