EC announces guidelines for presidential polls
With the Presidential election becoming one of the most bitterly contested, the Election Commission has for the first time issued a series of guidelines to ensure that the successor to APJ Abdul Kalam is chosen smoothly.
The guidelines relate to issues as diverse as video coverage of critical events to a ban on carrying cell phones by voters inside polling stations and the showing of proper identification by MPs and MLAs on the polling day.
In separate instructions to returning officers, the Commission said the videography of critical events should cover storage of ballot boxes, papers and other election materials, as well as opening of strong rooms for shifting ballot boxes and papers to the place of election on polling day.
The visuals should clearly establish the placement of voting compartment and seating arrangements from the point of view of maintaining the secrecy of the ballot, it said.
If any incident occurs during the course of polling that could impact the orderly and smooth conduct of the election, it should also be videographed and poll officials have got an active role to play in this matter, it said.
"However, under no circumstances the video coverage shall result in compromising the ballot secrecy even remotely," the Commission said.
As part of efforts to ensure orderly conduct of the poll, it banned the carrying of cell phones, cordless phones and wireless sets inside polling stations by voters and poll officials.
Observing that the Commission has recently allowed MLAs to cast their votes in exceptional cases at any of the state headquarters subject to seeking prior permission, the EC said every voter must carry identification documents such as ID issued by the state assembly, Elector Photo Identity Cards (EPIC) and original copy of 'Certificate of Election'.
"While there may not be any necessity to verify the identification of the legislators who are known to the Presiding Officer, such reference documents would be handy for verifying the identification of newly-elected members by the Presiding Officer before issuing the ballot paper," it said.
The Commission made it clear that the entire process of identifying the elector should be done with due care and diligence and not mechanically. Production of identification proof was not merely a technical formality but a valid method for establishing identity, it said.
The Commission has also made elaborate arrangements for airlifting of ballot boxes and ballot papers from New Delhi to various state headquarters and the movement of polled ballot boxes on July 20 to New Delhi for counting the following day.
While the empty ballot boxes could be booked as checked-in luggage if it was not possible to carry as 'cabin luggage', the polled ballot boxes, under no circumstances, could be moved as checked-in luggage.
All the assistant returning officers (AROs) who would be bringing the polled ballot boxes from state headquarters to New
Delhi would travel by "executive class", it said.
"The seats of these officers may be blocked in such a way that they are able to keep the polled ballot box adjacent to their seat as the same will be carried as hand luggage in sealed condition and with due care so that the seal does not get damaged during transit," it told the airlines.
However, the AROs would certify to the Airport Security Unit that the sealed ballot boxes contain only confidential documents and sealed in the presence of responsible officer of EC and did not contain any explosive material endangering the safety and security of the passengers and the aircraft, the Commission said.
The Commission would have no objection to the screening of these luggage through X-ray if done with due care without damaging the seal, it said.
The Commission has also decided to operate one 'Reception Counter-cum-Control Room' in the domestic arrival terminals of Indira Gandhi International Airport here for better coordination on July 20.