In a maiden initiative, the Election Commission has introduced e-filing of affidavits by candidates for the forthcoming Lok Sabha and assembly polls.
The affidavits (Form 26) are supposed to be furnished by the candidates at the time of filing of their nomination for contesting a Parliamentary or an assembly seat.
The e-filing of affidavits, sources said, has been introduced keeping in mind an error-free and customer-friendly filing of data by a candidate trying luck at the hustings.
A typical affidavit filed by a candidate includes his personal information like details of assets (including movable and immovable properties), properties and accounts under his or her name in a foreign land, liabilities of the candidate, name of the spouse and dependants, educational qualifications and criminal antecedents, if any.
The filing of the affidavit is a mandatory exercise notified by the EC under the Representation of People Act and if it is not done correctly, the returning officer has the powers to reject a nomination.
"The e-filing facility, however, will be optional for candidates this time. We have seen a number of tech-savvy candidates entering the poll fray and, hence, the EC has introduced it as a test case. If it succeeds, its scope would be enlarged," a senior official said.
According to procedures notified by the EC, after filing the affidavit on line, a candidate has to provide the returning officer an attested hard copy.
The e-filing procedure is much like the I-T returns filing on the computer, the official said. The EC had late last year run a pilot-project in two assembly constituencies in south India before deciding to roll it out in a full-fledged manner for the general elections, the schedule for which was announced on Wednesday.
The importance the EC is giving to these affidavits can be gauged from the fact that the poll panel has stated in its election guidelines that the copy of a candidates' affidavits can be obtained on demand by other candidates, general public and media from the returning officer.
The EC has also asked state election panels to quickly upload these affidavits in their respective websites and also paste them for public viewing in their office premises.
The Commission, as part of its measures to curb black money and illegal funds in the polls, will also be deploying a huge force of 'expenditure observers' drawn from central revenue services like the Income Tax and Customs and Excise departments.
The EC, in order to keep a track of huge cash, has also asked the Central Board of Direct Taxes and the Financial Intelligence Unit, both agencies under the Union finance ministry, to keep a strict eye through their intelligence and investigative tools during the poll period.
The Commission, like earlier times, has also asked all candidates to open a separate bank account for election-related expenses and conduct all transactions related to the polling utilities exclusively form this account.
This account has to be notified to the EC by the candidate. The EC has also recently raised the ceiling for election expenses for both Parliamentary and Assembly seats.
"The election expenses ceiling for candidates has been revised by the Government of India vide notification dated February 28. As per the revised ceilings, the maximum limit of election expenses for a Lok Sabha constituency is Rs 70 lakh per candidate for all states except Arunachal Pradesh, Goa and Sikkim. For these three states it is Rs 54 lakh per candidate.
"For the UnionTerritories, the maximum limit is Rs 70 lakh per candidate for NCT of Delhi and Rs 54 lakh per candidate for other UTs," the EC has said in its latest communication to political parties.
"For the assembly constituencies, the maximum limit is Rs 28 lakh per candidate for the bigger states and Delhi and Rs 20 lakh per candidate in the other states and Union Territory of Puducherry," it said.