The Election Commission of India (EC) has miserably failed to ensure strict compliance of its election code of conduct and provisions of Representation of People Act, thus putting a question mark on the "sanctity" of the entire poll process for the July 11 Dasuya by-election.
The commission has adopted a "selective" approach in dealing with rallies held by the state's bigwigs on public roads in the constituency.
Though FIRs under sections 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) and 283 (danger or obstruction in public way or lie of navigation) of the IPC were "immediately" registered against three candidates in Jalandhar for the same offence during the 2007 assembly polls, police were yet to book BJP candidate Sukhjit Kaur and her Congress rival Arun Dogra despite the fact that the duo held rallies on public roads at Buddobarkat and Giljian villages, respectively.
Instead, both candidates were served with show cause notices for poll code violation. These candidates, paying scant respect to the EC notices, again organised rallies on public roads at Kamahi Devi (BJP) and Ghogra village (Congress) even as video surveillance teams seemingly proved no deterrent for the "mighty and influential" politicians.
It is pertinent to mention here that BJP leader Manornajan Kalia, who was inducted as minister in the Punjab cabinet after the formation of the SAD-BJP government in 2007, was chargesheeted for holding a road rally. He faced trial in a Jalandhar court for over three years before his acquittal due to lack of evidence.
"Replies have been received from both the candidates in Buddobarkat and Giljian rallies case, which along with video recordings have been forwarded to the police for further action," returning officer Rahul Chaba said. SSP Balkar Singh Sidhu said that no case had been registered against any candidate. "We are yet to receive such communication from the RO. Requisite legal action will be taken accordingly," Sidhu added.
Blatant violations by the ruling combine could be gauged from the fact that though the EC served show cause notice on the management of Shivalik Hills Public School at Kamahi Devi village for allowing the BJP to organise a meeting on school campus on Saturday, the school premises was again used for election purposes by the BJP the very next day.
Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and SAD-BJP MLAs and leaders thronged the school premises for holding a luncheon election meeting and to take rest for over an hour. The school was again converted into an election office.
The EC notices, however, ensured red roof lights removed from the vehicles of politicians. Rampant deployment of vehicles for campaigning without authorisation was another area from where the EC preferred to stay away.
Interestingly, a majority of notices were issued on the basis of media reports on poll code violation while the EC's own flying squads, static and video surveillance teams and other poll machinery didn't react promptly to report these violations to competent poll authority or returning officer.
PWD (B&R) minister Sharanjeet Singh Dhillon along with his security guards and Garhshankar MLA Surinder Singh Bhullerathan was caught moving in Talwara by a Hindustan Times team on Tuesday. There is a ban on stay of outsiders in the segment.
Bhullerathan was earlier served notice for using red roof light on his vehicle. "We have served notice on Dhillon for overstaying in the segment," Chaba said, adding that outsiders overstaying in the segment would be dealt with strictly as per law.
A string of violations of the poll code in the run-up to the Dasuya by-poll has once again put the spotlight on the need to accord legal cover to the code so that violators could be brought to book and to ensure free and fair elections.