SHOOTS OFF TWO LETTERS IN A WEEK REMINDING THAT CEOs ARE EMPOWERED TO DISPOSE OF MCC CASES ON THEIR OWN
By bappaditya paul
The Election Commission (EC) has expressed strong dismay over the growing trend of referring to it almost all complaints on the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) by the Chief Electoral Officers (CEOs) of various states. This is despite the fact that the CEOs are empowered to initiate action on cases of MCC violations on their own. Miffed at this, the EC has sent two strongly worded letters to the CEOs of all states and the Union Territories, including West Bengal, in a single week. The first letter was sent on 20 March and the latest one was sent yesterday.
The letter signed by Mr K Ajay Kumar, Principal Secretary of the poll panel, reads: “The Commission has been receiving a large number of references on model code which are merely forwarded to the Commission without proper vetting at the level of Chief Electoral Officer. The Commission has expressed its dismay over this state of affairs and has directed that all Model Code of Conduct references received by CEOs should be preferably disposed of after due examination at their level.” The poll panel has spelt out the circumstances in which the CEOs can refer allegations of MCC violations for the panel’s opinion: “The Commission had reiterated that the CEOs should not send references to the Commission where there are clear-cut instructions of the Commission to deal with Model Code references, and only to refer those cases where there is a doubt about the applicability of Commission’s existing instructions to a specific case.”
In the said communiqué, all the CEOs have been “requested to follow the directions strictly.”
West Bengal is not any better as regards the handling of MCC violation complaints. According to figures availed from the West Bengal CEO office, till 22 March, the office had received 72 MCC violation complaints against political leaders and 18 complaints of alleged bias against civil and police officials involved with the Lok Sabha poll process in the districts.Of those, action was taken till that day on 18 and 6 complaints, respectively. It was informed that the remaining cases were under process with a majority of them being referred to the EC in Delhi.
This had prompted Deputy Election Commissioner (DEC) Vinod Zutshi to remind the DMs and the state CEO during his 25 March Kolkata visit, to address all MCC violation cases within 24 hours of being reported.
(The author is on The Statesman, India. This report was first published in The Statesman on 28 March 2014.)