Full EC to visit J&K on Jan 27, 28 for on-spot assessment of situation

ECI directs shifting out of local officers

Sanjeev Pargal

JAMMU, Jan 21: Full Election Commission of India (ECI) headed by Chief Election Commissioner, Sunil Arora was likely to visit Jammu and Kashmir on January 27 and 28 for on spot assessment of the situation on whether to hold simultaneous Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in the State or defer the Assembly elections by few months.
In the meantime, the Election Commission of India through its representative in Jammu and Kashmir has conveyed to the State Government to transfer officers/officials posted in the home districts in view of upcoming Lok Sabha elections, which were due to be held in April-May.
Official sources told the Excelsior that CEC Sunil Arora, Election Commissioner Ashok Lawasa will visit both Jammu and Kashmir regions, where they would meet Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), Shailendra Kumar and other officers of the Commission and later inter-act with senior representatives of all political parties, both national and region, to take their opinion on conduct of Lok Sabha and Assembly elections, preparedness for the polls and their suggestions for smooth conduct of the polling.
The full Election Commission will also meet senior officers of civil and police administration including the Chief Secretary, the Director General of Police, the Divisional Commissioner and the Deputy Commissioners, who are designated as District Electoral Officers (DEOs) at the time of elections.
The Election Commission might also have a meeting with Governor Satya Pal Malik.
Sources didn’t rule out the possibility of the Election Commission visiting some parts of Kashmir to personally assess situation in the Valley.
Describing the visit of full Election Commission to Jammu and Kashmir as quite significant, sources said the conduct of simultaneous Lok Sabha and Assembly polls would depend on the feedback taken by them during their two-day visit though the Commission can also take advise of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, which had to arrange additional para-military forces for the elections in view of disturbed conditions in the Valley especially South Kashmir.
“The Election Commission of India wants to be fully assured about security arrangements before taking any decision on holding Assembly elections simultaneously with Lok Sabha polls as the Commission couldn’t hold the by-poll to Anantnag Lok Sabha seat in South Kashmir for last more than one and a half years,” sources pointed out.
Anantnag Parliamentary by-poll was scheduled to be held in May 2017 but was deferred after violence in Srinagar Lok Sabha by-poll in April in which nine civilians were killed and couldn’t be held since then.
As the Legislative Assembly was dissolved on November 21, 2018, the Election Commission has to conduct the elections within six months to the Assembly i.e. May 21, 2019. However, if the elections are not held, the Central Government would have to extend the President’s rule in the State for another six months.
Meanwhile, the Election Commission of India has written to the Chief Secretary and the Chief Electoral Officer of Jammu and Kashmir that no officer connected directly with elections should be allowed to work in his/her home district and all those officers, who have been working for last three years in a district during last four years of service or would be completing three years service on May 31, 2019 should be shifted out.
“No officer, who has to be transferred, should be posted in the home district,” the ECI order said.
The ECI orders stated that the order will not apply to officials retiring in next six months but such officers and officials will not be associated in any way with the election duty.
“The Election Commission instructions will cover not only the officers appointed for specific election duties like District Election Officers, DyDEOs, RO/AROs, EROs/AEROs, officers appointed as Nodal Officers of any specific election works but also district officers like ADMs, SDMs, Deputy Collector/Joint Collector, Tehsildar, BDOs or any other officer of equal rank directly deployed for election works.
“These instructions will also be applicable to the Police Department officers such as Range IGs, DIGs, Commandants of State Armed Police, SSPs, SPs, Additional SPs, Sub Divisional Police Officers, SHOs, Inspectors, Sub Inspectors, RIs, Sergeant Majors or equivalent ranks, who are responsible for security arrangement or deployment of police forces in the district at the election time,” the Election Commission order stated.