Wednesday, February 13, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Flag marches in Punjab on poll eve
Tribune News Service and Uni

GraphicChandigarh, February 12
Security forces and Punjab police personnel today staged flag marches in a number of townships and villages of Punjab falling in the highly sensitive constituencies of Tarn Taran, Patti, Valtoha and Naushera Pannua, Beas, Majitha, Ajnala, Batala, Moga, Baghapurana and Jandiala to instill confidence among the electorate on the poll eve.

Tarn Taran SSP Gurdip Singh said a flag march was also staged in Bhikiwind, where a migrant labourer was killed during the campaign when ruling SAD activists allegedly fired at a Congress rally.

One of the accused named in the FIR is the brother of SAD minister-candidate from Patti and relative of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal.

The SSP said a flag march was also staged in the sub-divisional town of Patti.

Meanwhile, after 15 days of hectic campaigning in one of the toughest, fiercest and costliest elections, more than 1.57 crore voters would exercise their franchise tomorrow to seal the fate of 918 candidates in the 21,600-odd electronic voting machines (EVMs) till February 24 , the day which decides the future of politics in Punjab.

As many as 62,000 policemen, including nearly 17,000 from te paramilitary forces, shall be on duty to ensure that polling at all 18,239 booths of nearly 10,000 polling stations takes place in a free, fair and smooth manner. This means that 66 per cent of the total police force of the state shall be on election duty tomorrow.

Election to the Malout constituency has been countermanded following the death of the Punjab Minister of State for Rural Development, Mr Sujan Singh.

Besides 100 companies of paramilitary forces (PMF) sent by the Centre for election duty, there are five companies of the Rajasthan Armed Constabulary and three of the existing CRPF companies in Punjab, who are also being used for election duty, the Director-General of Police, Mr Sarabjit Singh, said today.

“We have made all arrangements to ensure that no untoward incident takes place anywhere,” he said, maintaining that except for murders at Patti and Kharar constituencies, electioneering has mostly remained peaceful so far.

“There was a clash between BJP and Congress workers at Batala last evening where we have registered cases against both the parties,” Mr Sarabjit Singh said.

Though the Allahabad High Court in a landmark judgment has set aside the Election Commission guideline that those without voter identity card need to produce “an acceptable proof of identity at the time of exercising franchise”, the Punjab officials do not foresee any problem or complication on this account.

“We have received some complaints from five to six Assembly constituencies about deletion of names of existing voters. For example, one complaint from Patti said that names of 6,000 voters have been deleted. Other complaints of a similar nature have come from Lambi, Morinda, Kharar and one or two more Assembly segments,” said Mr Cheema, holding that overall, the electoral rolls have been found to be in order.

Election material, including EVMs and ballot papers, was issued to the election parties this morning. “All these parties, accompanied by the police or paramilitary forces are expected to be at their respective polling stations this evening. They would stay at their respective polling booths. Polling would start at 8 am and continue till 5 pm. It is for the first time that only EVMs are being used,” said Mr Cheema, disclosing that not a single representation or complaint against the use of the EVMs in elections has been received from either any national or state party or any independent candidate.

Interestingly, the number of service voters in Punjab has come down substantially. Only 12,658 Punjab voters serving the defence forces, paramilitary forces or Indian missions abroad are registered. This includes their adult family members as well, belying the common belief that each year 40,000 are added to the ex-servicemen list in the state.

“For each of the 18,239 polling booths, we have printed 21 ballot papers,” says Mrs Usha Sharma, Joint Chief Electoral Officer of Punjab, maintaining that while one ballot paper would be used for pasting on the EVM of the booth the remaining 20 would be available for “tender votes”.

Though campaigning came to an end at 5 pm yesterday, certain violations of the guidelines of the Election Commission, including those pertaining to indirect campaigning through newspaper advertisements, have come to the notice of the Election Commission.

“We are taking cognisance of this serious violation as a number of advertisements have appeared in some vernacular newspapers seeking votes for one candidate or the other. We had issued a public notice, making it clear that no advertisement in electronic, print or broadcast media could be released at the end of the campaign period,” said Mr G.S. Cheema, Chief Electoral Officer of Punjab.

While no election-related advertisements appeared either in English newspapers or the electronic media, many of the vernacular dailies were full of such insertions. The possibility of launching of prosecution cases against those violating this order cannot be ruled out, sources in the commission said.

The Election Commission of India has also reportedly expressed its anxiety over the reports of alleged distillation and distribution of illicit brew in the countryside. Though the Election Commission had ordered the closure of all liquor shops, both of the country liquor and IMFL from 5 pm yesterday, little was done to enforce or implement this order. Most of the shops were open until late at night yesterday.

“The district authorities concerned have to initiate action and ensure that all directions of the Election Commission are followed,” said Mr Cheema.Back


Order on voter I-card stayed

New Delhi, February 12
Staying the Allahabad High Court order allowing the casting of votes without any identity card, the Supreme Court today ordered that the Election Commission’s 18 alternative identity provisions to establish voter identity during the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections would stay valid.

A three-judge Bench, while staying the high court order, said the January 23 and February 7 orders of the EC, detailing the alternative provisions, would come into operation and those alone would be given effect to by all returning officers as well as presiding officers during the three-phase polling scheduled for February 14, 18 and 21.

Issuing a notice to the two petitioners before the high court as also to the state government, the Bench comprising Mr Justice B.N. Kirpal, Mr Justice Shivaraj V. Patil and Mr Justice B.P. Singh gave them two weeks time to file replies.

The high court yesterday had overruled the EC’s January 23 and February 7 orders specifying 18 identity provisions in addition to the election photo I-card which would enable a voter to cast his ballot.

Beginning arguments for the commission, its counsel contended that the high court exceeded jurisdiction and the order “has put the EC in an awkward position”.

Mr Justice Kirpal observed that the Supreme Court had laid down the principle clearly that once the election notification was issued by the commission, the courts had no jurisdiction to deal with any related matter.

Citing the danger of bogus voting and impersonation, EC counsel said the commission had ordered that “the elector in the state of Uttar Pradesh can produce any one of the 18 documents to establish his or her identity in case he or she has not been issued the EC photo I-cards (EPIC) or cannot produce his or her EPIC for a valid reason.”

Despite this, the high court directed that an elector would be required to establish his identity only when it was challenged and permitted the elector to produce any other document to establish his or her identity, the counsel said.

“This would frustrate the very purpose of the Election Commission requiring compulsory identification of every elector and specifying certain kinds of documents that can establish the identity of the elector and prevent bogus voting and impersonation,” the commission said in its special leave petition challenging the high court order.

The 18 alternative identity documents were passport, driving licence, service identity cards, bank/kisan/post office passbooks, ration cards issued prior to January 1, 2002, SC/ST/OBC certificates, student I-cards, property documents, arms licence, conductor licence, pension documents, ex-servicemen’s widow/dependant certificate, railway/bus passes, handicap certificate, freedom fighter I-cards, I-cards issued to advocates and certificate of residence issued by village administrative officers. PTIBack

Home | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Editorial |
Business | Sport | World | Mailbag | In Spotlight | Chandigarh Tribune | Ludhiana Tribune
50 years of Independence | Tercentenary Celebrations |
122 Years of Trust | Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |