Rectify ‘laxity’ in poll code enforcement in two days: EC warns Bengal (Roundup)

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Kolkata, March 15 (IANS) Talking tough, the Election Commission on Tuesday set a two-day deadline for West Bengal officials to rectify violations of the model code of conduct in some areas for the coming assembly elections and warned it would take a “serious view” if ‘laxity’ in enforcing the poll code continued.

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

Zaidi met the media after 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 at state and district levels on issues concerning the April-May elections.

Asked about the commission’s stand on the purported sting operation carried out by a news portal that showed 11 Trinamool leaders accepting bribes, Zaidi said: “We have received representation (video) from political parties… we will get it examined.. we will pass it on to the relevant authorities.”

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The CEC expressed concern over the “high pendency” of non-bailable warrants (NBWs) and issued strict directions to officials to ensure criminals and anti-social elements do not roam freely and intimidate voters during the upcoming polls.

“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.

“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 said.

Zaidi directed that all flags, banners, hoardings and photographs displayed on government buildings, public transport and bridges in violation of the model code of conduct will have to be removed within the time frame.

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“The Commission has noted some laxity in the enforcement of the model code of conduct (MCC) in some areas and by some officials. We have taken note of it. We have directed those officials, particularly Kolkata Municipal Corporation and other municipal corporation areas where the laxity with regards to MCC was noted,” Zaidi said.

“There were flags, hoardings and photographs being displayed on public transport, buildings, bridges, and we have given 48 hours to officials to remove such flags, banners, hoardings etc. which have been displayed in violation of MCC, failing which the Commission will take a very serious view.”

He said many political parties have also informed the poll panel about the lack of neutrality of some officials.

“We cannot tell you who those are. We have taken note of it. We have independent sources also. We will assess it, and take appropriate decision soon.”

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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 said.

The commission has identified about 12,000 vulnerable locations which would be under direct focus of the Commission.

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.

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