The Election Commission has banned Chief Ministers, Ministers and Central Ministers from making any public speeches during the January 26 Republic day celebrations in States where elections/by-elections are being held.

This will apply to the five States — Uttarakhand, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Manipur and Goa — where the model code of conduct is currently in force.

The EC had no objection to any of the political functionaries doing the honours in the main Republic Day functions at various locations, provided that they confined themselves to extolling the achievements of the martyrs of the Indian freedom struggle and the national glory and so on. “Under no circumstances, should they become a platform for political campaigning.”

The directions had been sent to the Cabinet Secretary of the Central government and Chief Secretaries/Chief Electoral Officers of all the States (wherever applicable).

The EC also directed, purely in the interest of providing a level playing field in the polls, that “no Central Minister, CM or State Minister or other political functionary in the States or ex-MPs shall do the honours at any Republic Day functions at any location within their home district or constituency or the constituency from where he or she is a contesting candidate or intends to contest.”

Seizing of cash

In another communication, State CEOs were told that any cash found to have links to any political party or candidate or suspected to be intended for distribution among electors must be seized, no matter the amount. This constituted a slight modification to the Standard Operating Procedure for dealing with unaccounted-for cash, gold and other valuable assets found by the Commission's Flying Squad Team in the poll-bound States.

If the cash found was below Rs.2.5 lakh, with no links to any candidate or political party and arousing no suspicions of criminality, and the cash was being carried with proper documents as regards its source and/or end-use, then the cash would not be seized. However, this would be subject to production of identity/address documents.

If the cash found was above Rs.2.5 lakh with no links to any candidate or political party and aroused no suspicions of criminality, then the Income tax authorities should be involved before the release of any such cash.

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