Odishatv Bureau

New Delhi: With just six to seven months left for the Assembly elections in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Kerala and Assam, the Election Commission (EC) has begun a mammoth drive for the scrutiny of officers being deployed in the five-yearly exercise aimed at achieving "free and fair" polls.

It is being ensured that the polling officers directly connected to the conduct of elections in these five states are not posted in their home districts and places where they have served for a considerably long period of time.

The EC has circulated the message through a written advisory to the Chief Secretaries and the Chief Electoral Officers of all these five states where the polling is scheduled in May end and early June as the existing legislative Assemblies are due to expire during that period next year.

As the terms of the Assemblies in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal, Puducherry and Assam are to expire on May 24, June 1, May 30, June 8 and May 31, respectively, and the elections to these states should be conducted before the due period, the EC has given instructions to the concerned authorities to prepare a list of such officers as per its policy, giving example of the one issued on January 16 last year when the terms of the Lok Sabha and the state legislative Assemblies of Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha and Sikkim were to expire within next five-six months.

Accordingly, it has been advised to ensure that all government officers directly connected with the conduct of elections are not posted in her/his home district and they have completed three years in that district during the last four years or would be completing three years on or before May 31.

The list will also include the names of those officers against whom the Commission had recommended disciplinary action in the past and which is pending or which has resulted in a penalty or the officers who have been charged for any lapse in any election or election related work in the past. These officers will not be assigned to these duties.

Further, any officer, who is due to retire within the coming six months, shall also not be associated with any election related duties. The officers who were posted on the recommendation of the Commission during the Lok Sabha elections in 2019 may be exempted from the transfer policy.

The Commission's advisory may be brought to notice of all concerned for "strict and timely compliance".

The five states have also been directed to revert back to the Commission's advisory with acknowledgement receipt of the letter.

These instructions shall cover not only officers appointed for specific election duties like DEOs, Deputy DEOs, ROs, AROs, EROs/AEROs and officers appointed as nodal officers of any specific elections, but also district officers like ADMs, SDMs, Deputy Collectors/Joint Collectors, Tehsildars, Block Development Officers or any other officer of equal rank directly deployed for election works.

These instructions will also be applicable to the police officers of the ranks of IGs, DIGs, Commandants of State Armed Police, SSPs, SPs, Additional SPs, Sub-Divisional Head of Police, SHOs, Inspectors, Sub-Inspectors, RIs/Sergeant Majors or equivalent ranks, who are responsible for security arrangements or deployment of police forces in the districts at election time.

All election related officers will also be required to give a declaration in a particular format to the District Electoral Officer concerned, who shall inform the Chief Electoral Officer.

(Rajnish Singh/IANS)