S.Y. Quraishi succeeds Navin Chawla who demitted office yesterday. The new CEC announced that by the end of August, new guidelines would be in place against the misuse of power during elections

Assuming charge as the new Chief Election Commissioner, S. Y. Quraishi today said the poll panel would accord priority to restricting the role of money power in elections which has become a major challenge.

Mr. Quraishi, the 17th CEC, said the Commission had held a series of discussions among expenditure observers to find out the areas it could focus on to strengthen checks and controls to prevent misuse of money power.

“We will come out with detailed guidelines. They are being fine-tuned. By the end of August, they would have been in place. We hope we will be able to tighten our control on the use of money power,” Mr. Quraishi, a 1971 batch IAS officer, told reporters after taking over.

Enhancing the participation of voters in polls would also receive the Commission’s due priority, said 63-year-old Quraishi, who would be conducting Assembly polls in Bihar, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Kerala and Assam.

To a question on use of EVMs in the backdrop of the experience in Andhra Pradesh bypolls where manual voting took place in five constituencies, he said the Commission was constantly working towards making EVMs absolutely fool-proof.

“There seems to be no reason,” he said when asked whether the Commission would give a second thought on use of EVMs.

Mr. Quraishi succeeds Navin Chawla who demitted office yesterday.

Mr. Quraishi said while the framers of the Constitution insulated the EC from “all possible pressures,” it is the judiciary that has zealously guarded the independence of the Commission against “any assault”.

Noting that in great institutions priorities did not change overnight and they did not alter radically either, the CEC said the panel would continuously strive to conduct free and fair elections wherever and whenever required.

Replying to a question on the Government’s move to give voting rights to NRIs, Quraishi said though the EC favoured it, there were several logistical issues such as who could be given voting rights and whether voting could be carried out through postal ballot needed to be worked out.

He said the EC and the Overseas Ministry has had a few meetings in this regard.

Expressing concern over the growing syndrome of paid news, he said the Commission had recently issued tougher guidelines to prevent this phenomenon.

Asked about the issue of biometric cards in elections, he said the Commission has still not come to a conclusion on the best alternative but, at some point of time, the system will be used for electoral rolls. “We are studying it. It is a good idea”.

He said 85 per cent of the 714 million voters have already been provided with voter identity cards and “when we issue more cards the unique identification numbers will be superimposed along with EC card numbers.”

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