Except for maintaining law and order, the policemen deployed at polling booths have no power to prevent entry of any voter or verify his credentials at the time of exercise of franchise. According to the Election Commission, the work of verifying the voter is that of the Presiding Officer and the polling party deputed for conducting the elections at the booth.
Even if anyone is not carrying a voter identity card, the office of the Delhi Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) has informed the Delhi Police that police officers are not to disallow any person from entering a polling booth. “There are several documents which are allowed by the Election Commission besides the voter identity card/voter slip to identify the voter by the Presiding Officer,” said the CEO.
The CEO has also clarified that the police have no role in differentiating between the expenditure incurred by a political party or by any candidate. The job would be done by the Expenditure Monitoring teams in each Assembly segment under the supervision of the District Election Officer/Returning Officer/Expenditure Observer.
While the force can seize vehicles carrying food packages without an approval from the Returning Officer and initiate legal action for unauthorised election expenditures, the police have no authority to debar polling agents simply because they have a criminal record. “The Returning Officer shall appoint the polling agents on the request of the contesting candidates. Simply having criminal record does not become a ground for disqualification for an election agent, unless convicted,” said the officer.
The police cannot also take action against any individual for carrying a flag having the emblem of a particular party during the elections and on the polling day. However, use of such a flag for rally or procession should have prior authorisation for campaigning. Any violation will attract action under Section 171(H) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for unauthorised election expenditure.
There is no ban on multiple entries of a candidate to visit a polling booths without obstructing the voters. The use of “dhol” or “nagara” during procession, unless it causes public nuisance or disturbs peace, is also permitted.
While a person can wear a cap/wristband bearing party name on the polling date, canvassing in any form is not allowed within 100 metres of the polling station. If a juvenile is found involved in campaigning on the polling day wearing party articles, the CEO has directed the police to make efforts to identify the source of the articles for taking action against the candidate relating to expenditure accounting. Since Section 171 (A) of IPC will not be applicable in case of a minor, the CEO has advised the police to explore the Juvenile Justice Act provisions for such a situation.
In monitoring election expenditure of a candidate, which can be done only by the Expenditure Monitoring Teams, the police have to be deployed with the Flying Squad Teams, Static Surveillance Teams and the Video Surveillance Teams. In case the police come across instances of candidates being weighed against coins worth over Rs.10 lakh, they are required to alert the Income Tax Department for investigations.
The CEO said the police will book dummy candidates under Section 171 (H) of IPC for unauthorised expenditure, which attracts a maximum of Rs.500 fine. He observed that the dummy candidates usually misuse the permissions given to them for vehicles.
“In suspected cases, the field functionary should record the campaigns by the dummy candidates and check if the campaigning material of another candidate is being carried in his or his agent’s vehicle,” said the officer, adding that the same has to be photographed/video-graphed and statements of witnesses taken.
Accordingly vehicle permission granted to the dummy candidates would be withdrawn by the Returning Officer and the expenditure booked against the candidate in whose favour the dummy candidate is campaigning.