'Seek approval before initiating action against poll officials': EC tells states
- The EC said that the victimisation creates an atmosphere of fear that conveys to the upright, steadfast and sincere officers that they can be “taken to task anytime”.
The Election Commission on Friday said that states and union territories will need its approval before initiating disciplinary action against poll officials to ensure free, fair, impartial and fearless elections.
The Commission, in a statement marked to the cabinet secretary, chief secretaries, secretary of department of personnel and training and chief electoral officials, said that election officials faced motivated harassment and victimisation post the elections.
“The Commission has noted some instances of victimisation of chief electoral officers (CEOs), additional/joint/deputy/assistant CEOs in the post-election period,” the statement said. “Many a time, they are targeted for political vendetta by charging them with disciplinary cases on flimsy grounds for their earlier tenures in the state government after the completion of their tenure.”
The Commission added that the victimisation creates an atmosphere of fear that conveys to the upright, steadfast and sincere officers that they can be “taken to task anytime”.
“In such a scenario, these officers are not only demotivated but also their morale is greatly reduced, which severely affects their effort to ensure free and fair elections,” the statement said. “Left to go unfettered, it causes a situation where officials are reluctant to join as CEOs and those inducted face the uncertainty of fair treatment in the post-election phase.”
It added that the Supreme Court has upheld that while action cannot be initiated by the state/UT governments on election duty, the government cannot ignore the advice to act against errant officials. The disciplinary authority for the officials is the Commission, as per the DoPT's instructions.
“The Election Commission is of the view that positive protection to officials from motivated harassment, to enable the conduct of free, fair, impartial and fearless elections is necessary,” it said.
It has directed the governments to obtain prior approval before initiating any disciplinary action against chief electoral officers (CEO) and other officers unto the joint chief electoral officer during their tenure and up to one year from its expiry.
“The government shall also not reduce the facilities, such as vehicle, security and other facilities and amenities, provided to the CEO for proper discharge of duties,” the Commission stated.