To ensure that the upcoming Lok Sabha elections are conducted smoothly, the Election Commission (EC) has instructed that the Director General of Police (DGP) of every state has to identify a senior police official as the nodal officer to remain in constant touch with the Chief Election Officers (CEOs) to implement the EC’s orders form time to time.
At the state level, the CEO of the state supervises the election work, subject to overall superintendence, direction and control of the Commission.
At the district level, the district electoral officer (DEO)-cum-district collector has been instructed to hold meetings with SPs and senior officials to implement the EC’s instructions on maintenance of law and order, execution of non-bailable warrants, seizure of illegal arms, surrender of licenced weapons, enforcement of excise law, action against bootleggers etc.
The EC wrote to the CEOs recently on how to prepare the police officials for the polls. The letter written by the principal secretary of the EC to the Orissa CEO said, “Police machinery plays a key role in the conduct of elections in a peaceful and orderly manner. But a peaceful election free from violence need not necessarily be a free and fair election. Therefore, correct and unbiased implementation of the election laws and Election Commission’s directions is necessary… Now the following directions are issued regarding training of police personnel associated with conduct of elections”.
According to the instructions, the state police headquarters will have to develop a checklist for the key officials associated with the conduct of election indicating their duties and responsibilities in the light of new instructions being issued from the EC.
“There should be proper coordination between the CEO’s office and the police headquarters. The DGP may identify a senior officer who would function as a nodal officer to remain in touch with the CEO on day-to-day basis so that the Commission’s instructions from time to time are followed up and implemented”, the letter said.
The letter makes it clear that the enforcement of the Model Code of Conduct is the joint responsibility of the district electoral administration and the police. District police officials have been instructed to devise a Complaint Monitoring System for tracking election-related violence and offence. The EC has introduced a new concept of vulnerability mapping and specific process for identifying the critical polling stations and critical clusters.
The conventional method of identifying hyper sensitive/sensitive/normal polling stations adopts the law and order and past events of violence as the major criteria. However, the new system of identifying critical polling stations and critical clusters gives lots of importance for the factors associated with free and fair election process.
“As the vulnerability mapping gives valid inputs for identification of critical polling stations and critical clusters, the entire concept should be explained to the police officials properly by the DEO and SP”, the instructions said.
As per the instructions, an orientation should be given to the police about the polling process on election day. The other connected issues and the duties and responsibilities of various police officials on that day with reference to security at polling station, patrolling of the catchments areas, tracking of areas identified as vulnerable, transportation of polled EVMs, sealing and guarding of strong rooms and the counting day arrangements.