The chief electoral officer (CEO), Punjab, has directed the state police and the civil administration to impose restrictions as per Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) within a 1,000-yard radius of all 30 counting stations in the 13 parliamentary constituencies of the state to maintain peace on the counting day. The fate of 253 candidates would be decided on Friday.
As per the restrictions, a group of five or more than five people would not be allowed to assemble. Taking out of a victory procession by the winning candidates and their supporters within a 1,000-yard radius is also banned. The restrictions would be in force from 8am to 9pm on Friday.
Instructions have also been issued for a tight three-tier security around all counting centres -with the state police in the outer circle, the Punjab Armed Police in the middle one and central paramilitary forces in the innermost circle. The counting would take place in a covered area with iron wire mesh where only the counting officials, counting agents of the candidates, the candidates themselves and the returning officer concerned would be allowed.
In the high-stake elections, which are witnessing a three-cornered contest between the ruling SAD-BJP coalition, the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), security and law and order have become important issues. Pertinently, former Punjab CM Capt Amarinder Singh has expressed apprehension over law and order on the counting day.
Punjab CEO VK Singh on Thursday directed district electoral officers (DEOs) to ensure strict discipline in and around all counting locations throughout the state during counting.
"Any unauthorised person shouldn't be allowed near counting locations and each member of the counting staff should be issued identity cards and be asked to display that," said VK Singh. He said the entire counting process should be videographed and a copy of the recording made available to the contesting candidates on payment basis. Similarly, round-wise results should also be given to the counting agents.
The CEO asked the field police officers to remain more alert after the declaration of results to check any incident of confrontation between political groups.
Inspector general (IG, headquarters and elections) Arpit Shukla asked the field police officers to put up nakas, besides intensifying police patrolling in the cities during the counting process. He said all senior field police officers should themselves remain in the field to keep a close watch on the law and order.
VK Singh further informed that 43 central observers had already reported in the state and the counting process would begin at all 30 counting locations at 8am under their supervision. He said the latest updates about counting would be available on the Punjab CEO website (ceopunjab.nic.in).
He also announced that Friday would be a dry day, with all liquor vends across the state remaining closed. Additional CEOs Raminder Singh and Supreet Singh Gulati and joint CEO Amit Talwar were present during the videoconferencing.