EC's fiat to States to transfer officials

New Delhi Sept. 21 . To ensure free and fair elections, the Election Commission has issued fresh orders to the Chief Secretaries and Chief Electoral Officers of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Mizoram to ensure that no officer connected with the coming Assembly polls be allowed to continue in his/her home district.

The Commission has also asked them to prepare a list of officers who had "completed four years stay during the last five years in the same district" irrespective of whether they were deployed in their home district.

The exercise is aimed at shifting officers who had stayed too long in their present districts while taking care that they are not posted to their home districts. This step was followed for the first time during the last Assembly elections in Gujarat and the Commission wanted to continue this process for other States also.

The Commission has stated that while calculating the period of four years, "promotion to a post within the district is to be counted. Also short spells of transfer of less than one year may not be taken into account".

In the same letter, the Commission has stated that any officer who is connected with elections should not be allowed to continue in his home district. Those who fall under this category are district election officers, returning officers and assistant returning officers as well as district-level officers such as additional district magistrates, deputy collectors and sub-divisional magistrates.

In the case of police officers, the Commission said these instructions were applicable to the ranks of IGs, DIGs, SSPs, SPs, sub-divisional heads of police, and police inspectors and sub-inspectors. The instructions had been sent out before the formal announcement of elections to ensure that the State Governments had enough time to carry out the directions in totality.

The Commission said that if steps were taken immediately, then large-scale dislocation of officers immediately after the announcement of polls would not be necessary.

It was also made clear that CEOs shall be invariably consulted regarding the new persons being brought in to man the posts as a result of the transferring out of the present incumbent who was either serving in his home district or had served for four years or more during the last five years in the same district.

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