EC concerned over high pendency of non-bailable warrants in Bengal

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Kolkata, March 15 (IANS) Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi on Tuesday expressed concern over the “high pendency” of non-bailable warrants (NBW) in West Bengal and said the poll panel has issued strict directions to officials to ensure criminals and anti-social elements do not roam freely and intimidate voters during the upcoming polls.

Laying stress on neutrality and impartiality of the election machinery, Zaidi said criminal action would be taken against anyone — “official or non-official” — found indulging in “malpractices” with regard to photo voter slips.

“As many as 89,000 non-bailable warrants against criminals have been executed till February 29. We have directed district officials that the pending 31,000 NBWs must be executed at the fastest pace. This will be reviewed at the police station level also.

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“Such a high pendency of non-bailable warrants is rather not up to the mark and we have directed that they would launch a special drive, monitor at the police station level and marshall all resources to bring these NBWs to their logical conclusion,” Zaidi told the media here.

Zaidi emphasised the “intention is to create an atmosphere where criminals (under these NBWs) will not be allowed to roam freely and are not allowed to intimidate voters”.

The full bench of the commission, which arrived here on Monday, held detailed deliberations with political parties, civil society members, top police and administrative officers of state and district levels.

The Commission instructed district and state officials to prepare a comprehensive list of vulnerable locations.

“We have asked district officials and state officials to make a comprehensive review of security and law and order situation and prepare a comprehensive list of vulnerability locations.

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“Close to 12,000 vulnerable locations have been identified in the state which will be under direct focus of the Commission. There should be adequate coverage of CCTV and webcasting,” he said.

The Commission has also asked district officials officials to “ensure that in sensitive district communal harmony must be maintained at all conditions”.

Zaidi said a lot of action was underway with regards to illicit arms and liquor, explosives, bombs in various parts of the state under the supervision of the Commission.

In addition, the Commission has directed district and higher authorities to pay special attention to belts like Malda, Bankura and Birbhum which are the hotbed of “nefarious activities” like explosives, illicit arms etc., said Zaidi.

“Political parties have apprised us about this belt. We are aware of explosives, illicit arms and nefarious activities in these areas. Special focus will be laid by district machinery as well as high level officials on these belts.”

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Photo voters slips would be distributed at least five days before polling day.

“Any person – official or non-official – found indulging in malpractices with photo voter slips will be subjected to criminal action, nothing short of that,” he added.

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