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EC seeks protection for CEOs from victimisation

The Election Commission directed State and Union Territory governments on Friday to seek its approval before initiating disciplinary action against Chief Electoral Officers, and those up to the rank of Joint Chief Electoral Officer, stating that it had come across some instances of victimisation for political reasons.

The EC, in a letter to the Union Cabinet Secretary, Secretary to the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) and Chief Secretaries of all the States and Union Territories, said they must seek its permission before acting against officials during their tenure and up to one year from its expiry.

The Commission also directed the State/UT governments not to reduce facilities such as vehicles, security and other amenities provided to the office of the Chief Electoral Officers for proper discharge of their duties.

The EC said many a time, political vendetta was behind disciplinary cases being filed against officials after the completion of their tenure. “An environment of fear is created to convey that the upright, steadfast and sincere officers can be taken to task at any time, on the flimsiest of grounds,” it said.

“In such a scenario, these officers are not only demotivated but also their morale is greatly reduced, which severely affects their efforts to ensure free and fair elections. Left to go on unfettered, it causes a situation where officials are reluctant to join as Chief Electoral Officers, and those who are inducted face the uncertainty of fair treatment in post-election phase,” said the EC.

The Commission referred to a Supreme Court order of September 21, 2000, holding that neither could action be initiated by the State government against officers on election duty nor could the government refuse to act on the EC’s advice to initiate action against errant officials.

Accordingly, the DoPT also issued instructions, establishing the Commission’s disciplinary control over officials deputed for election duties.

“In view of the above, the Commission is of the view that positive protection to election officials from motivated harassment is essential to enable the election officials in carrying out the electoral functions in free, fair, impartial and fearless manner,” said the EC.

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Printable version | Mar 6, 2021 5:55:12 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/ec-seeks-protection-for-ceos-from-victimisation/article33584369.ece

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