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Install cameras at polling booths: SC
S.S. Negi
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, January 17
Concerned over the large scale rigging and violence during elections, especially in the states like Bihar, the Supreme Court has asked the Election Commission (EC) to instal cameras at polling booths to check complicity of election staff in the malpractice.

"Some cameras should be installed at the polling booths to keep vigilance on the local staff on duty. It has come to notice that sometimes local staff which is appointed to conduct the elections become party to the unfair and illegal practice," a Bench comprising Chief Justice R.C. Lahoti, Mr Justice G.P. Mathur and Mr Justice A.K .Mathur said laying down certain guidelines to the poll panel on smooth conduct of the elections.

The court further asked the EC to man the polling booths with personnel of Central para-military forces to prevent malpractices by the election staff.

"The para-military staff outside the polling booth maintains law and order situation but what transpires inside the booth is beyond their reach," the court said.

"The EC may consider some measures to appoint some of the personnel from the para-military force to be deputed inside the polling booth, so as to keep an eye on the local staff, who are entrusted to conduct the elections. This will have sobering effect on the staff that they are under vigilance," it said.

The court also expressed concern over the allegations that money allotted for conducting elections was being diverted by the states for other purposes and asked the poll panel to seek "utilisation" certificates from state governments on the funds meant strictly for elections.

"Some of the funds have also been utilised for entertainment of the election observers.

This should be taken care of by the EC and strict instructions should be given to the observers not to accept undue hospitality of the state governments because that would unnecessarily compromise their objectivity and transparency," the apex court said.

The direction was issued in the form of court's guidelines to be followed by the EC, in a judgment in an election petition against sitting Bihar MLA Ram Das by his rival Janak Singh whose plea about alleged unfairness during counting and violation of the EC rules regarding this, by the election staff, was dismissed by the Patna High Court.

Though the apex court upheld the High Court verdict and dismissed Janaka Singh's appeal as the unfairness during the counting could not be proved, it took serious note of the large-scale rigging and poll related violence in Bihar and some other states and laid down the guidelines for the poll panel.

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