The sudden transfer of the head of the Police Commissionerate of Bangalore, who enjoys the powers of a district magistrate as well, marks the beginning of a new era in ensuring free and fair elections in Karnataka, although there has been no report that the outgoing Police Commissioner Jyoti Prakash Mirji could have served to the benefit of any political party and hence should be unseated.

The transfer of the Police Commissioner during the run-up to the Legislative Assembly elections is unprecedented in Karnataka, although there are instances of even a Director-General of Police being shunted out during elections in some of the States. Complying with an Election Commission directive, the Bharatiya Janata Party government in Karnataka on Friday issued the transfer orders and posted the Secretary to Government (Home) Raghavendra H. Auradkar in his place.

It should be noted that all officers of the State Government, directly or indirectly connected with the conduct of elections, are presently under the charge of the Election Commission of India and consequently their postings are also directly ordered by the election authority and executed by the government of the day. While announcing the election calendar following which the model code of conduct came into effect immediately, it was categorically conveyed that all officers who had put in more than the stipulated years of service in a given position shall be transferred and the change of the Bangalore Police Commissioner is believed to be in accordance with this announcement.

Sources in the State Secretariat told The Hindu that the commission had shot down a panel of three names — Bipin Gopalakrishna of the 1982 batch of the Indian Police Service and H.C. Kishore Chandra and M.N. Reddi of the 1984 batch — suggested by the State government, and instead approved the name of Raghavendra Auradkar who belongs to the 1987 batch of the IPS.

Hence, the transfer order issued on Friday clearly states: “This order is issued as per the direction of Election Commission of India for smooth conduct of elections in a free and fair manner.” This could also mean that the new Police Commissioner could come under review soon after a new government takes charge of office presumably by May 12 given the fact that the election results will be known on May 8. Mr. Mirji was appointed Police Commissioner in January 2011 and had taken charge from Shankar M. Bidari, who on superannuation has since joined the Congress.

It should be noted that the Election Commission which functions under Article 324 of the Constitution and therein empowered by the Representation of People Act, enjoys enormous powers and could draw the attention of the President if a State government does not extend support towards the conduct of a free and fair election.

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