Taking note of some incidents of "victimisation" of state chief electoral officers and other election officials in the post-election period on flimsy grounds, the Election Commission has directed all states to seek its prior approval before initiating any disciplinary action against such officers during their tenure, as also up to one year after completion of their stint with the poll panel.
In a letter addressed to the cabinet secretary and chief secretaries of all states and union territories on Thursday, the EC said it has noted some incidents of "victimisation" of CEOs and additional, joint, deputy and assistant CEOs in the post-election period.
"Many a times they are targeted for political vendetta by charging them with disciplinary cases on flimsy grounds for their earlier tenures in the state government 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 the grounds," the Commission noted.
It said in such a scenario, these officers are not only "demotivated but also their morale is greatly reduced, which severely affect their efforts to ensure free and fair elections".
"Left to go on unfettered, it causes a situation where officials are reluctant to join as CEOs and those who are inducted face the uncertainty of fair treatment in post-election phase," it observed.
The EC said it is of considered view that positive protection to election officials from motivated harassment is essential to enable them in carrying out the electoral functions in free, fair, impartial and fearless manner.
In its directions, the Commission said "the state/UT governments shall invariably obtain prior approval of the Commission before initiating any disciplinary action against the Chief Electoral Officers and other officers up to Joint Chief Electoral Officer during their tenure and also up to one year from its expiry."
It also said that the state government and the union territory administration will not reduce facilities such as vehicle, security and other facilities or amenities provided to the office of the chief electoral officer for proper discharge of his or her duties.
The letter pointed out that the matter of taking action against any officer on election duty was subjected to the scrutiny of the Supreme Court. In 2000, the top court had upheld that neither any action can be initiated against the officers on election duty by the state government nor can the government refuse to act on its advice to initiate action against errant officials.
The Commission designates a CEO for state and union territories in consultation with the respective governments.
Chief electoral officers are essentially an extension of the Commission in the states and union territories to carry out multifarious election related functions of the Commission.
Once appointed, the CEO comes under direct control, superintendence and discipline of the Election Commission and remains on deputation to Election Commission.
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