19 October : The Legislative Assembly of the State of Jammu & Kashmir was dissolved on 10.07.2008 and the State has been placed under the Governor’s rule w.e.f. 10-07-08. This will come to an end on 10-01-09 in the normal course.
By virtue of its powers, duties and functions under Section 138 read with Section 52 (1) of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir, and the decision of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Special Reference No.1 of 2002 [AIR 2003 SC 87, (2002) 8 SCC 237], and Section 27 of the Jammu and Kashmir Representation of the People Act, 1957, the Commission is under a constitutional mandate to hold general election to constitute the new Legislative Assembly in the State before 10-01-09.
2. Under Section 47 read with Section 48 of the Constitution of J & K, elections are to be held for 87 Assembly Constituency seats (ACs) in Jammu & Kashmir, out of which 7 seats are reserved for the Scheduled Castes.
3. General Election in the State will be conducted on the basis of the electoral rolls revised with reference to 01.01.08 as the qualifying date. The electoral roll revision process in the State has been completed and the final publication made. As per finally published rolls, there are 65,38,111 electors in the State. The electoral rolls of all the Assembly Constituencies of the State have been computerized and are available on the website of the Chief Electoral Officer of the State.
ELECTORS PHOTO IDENTITY CARDS (EPIC)
Identification of the voters at the polling booth at the time of poll shall be mandatory. Presently, the EPIC coverage in the State is 68.00%. All the residual electors are advised to obtain their EPICs from the EROs of their Assembly Constituencies urgently.
ELECTRONIC VOTING MACHINES (EVMs)
5. The poll in the State will be conducted at all polling stations using EVMs. The Commission has already made arrangements to ensure availability of adequate number of EVMs for the smooth conduct of elections in the State. A two- stage randomization of EVMs will be made. In the first stage, all the EVMs stored in the District storage centre will be randomized for allocation assembly constituency-wise. After the EVMs in a constituency are prepared for the poll by the Returning Officer and the ballot units are fitted with ballot papers, then the EVMs will again be randomized to decide the actual polling stations in which they will be ultimately used. Both the randomization processes will be done in the presence of Observers and Candidates or their election agents.
MEETING WITH RECOGNISED POLITICAL PARTIES AND MEETINGS WITH THE OFFICIALS OF STATE GOVT. & GOVT. OF INDIA
6. In view of the recent developments in the State of Jammu and Kashmir, the Commission had a meeting with representatives of recognized National parties and recognized State parties on 8th September 2008 (Monday) at New Delhi. Thereafter, Commission also held discussions with Chief Secretary and Director General of Police, Jammu and Kashmir on 10th September 2008(Wednesday) and with Home Secretary, Govt. of India on 10th September at Delhi. Another round of meetings was held on 8th October, 2008(Tuesday) with the representatives of recognized National and State parties of Jammu and Kashmir and a meeting with the Advisors to the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir on 7th October 2008 and with the Chief Secretary and Director General of Police on 8th October 2008. The Commission also had meeting with the Home Secretary, Government of India on 10th October 2008 at Delhi. The Commission took note of the inputs provided in the meetings. The State Government has assured full cooperation to the Commission in the matter of providing necessary manpower and materials for the conduct of free, fair and peaceful elections. The Central Government has also assured that adequate Central Police Forces will be made available to ensure the safety, security and free movement of electors, candidates, leaders of political parties and polling personnel and guarding of polling materials and polling stations.
LAW AND ORDER AND DEPLOYMENT OF FORCES
7. Based on the assessment of the ground situation, Central Police Forces (CPFs) and State Armed Police (SAPs) drawn from other States will be deployed during the ensuing general elections. The CPF and SAP will be used generally for safeguarding the polling stations and for providing security to the electors and polling personnel at the polling stations on the poll day. Besides, these forces will be used for securing the strong rooms where the EVMs are stored and at the counting centers. Wherever needed, the CPF will be deployed in advance for area domination. The identification of polling stations requiring coverage by CPF in various assembly constituencies will be made in consultation with the ECI Observers.
8. The Commission has been issuing instructions from time to time with regard to the advance preventive measures to be taken by the District Magistrates and Police authorities to maintain the Law & Order and to create atmosphere conducive for the conduct of free and fair elections. The Commission will be constantly monitoring the ground situation closely and will take appropriate measures to ensure peaceful, free and fair polls in the State.
9. The Commission will be deploying Observers to ensure smooth conduct of forthcoming General Election in the State. The Observers will be asked to keep a close watch on every stage of the electoral process to ensure free and fair elections.
CONDUCT OF OFFICIALS
10. The Commission expects all officials engaged in the conduct of elections to discharge their duties in an impartial manner without any fear or favour. They all shall be deemed to be on deputation to the Commission and shall be subject to its control, supervision and discipline. Several instructions have been issued from time to time to ensure impartiality of officials who are engaged in conduct of elections. The conduct of all government officials who have been entrusted with election related responsibilities and duties would remain under constant scrutiny of the Commission and strict action shall be taken against those officials who are found wanting on any account.
11. The Commission has already given instructions that no election related official or Police officer of the rank of Sub Inspector and above shall be allowed to continue in his home district. Besides, instructions have also been issued that all the election related officials including the police officials who have completed three years in a district during last four years should be transferred out of that district. The Government of the State has also been asked to transfer all those officers against whom the Commission has recommended disciplinary action or who have been charged for any lapse during previous elections or for any election related work, from
the positions entailing any election work.
12. The Government of the State has been instructed to ensure that those officials who stand transferred on the above ground shall physically move out of their last place of posting and not remain there on any pretext including leave.
13. The Commission has also instructed the State Government not to associate any officer with the electoral process against whom charges have been framed in a court of law in any case.
PROTECTION TO SC/ST ELECTORS
14. As per Section 3 (1) (vii) of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, whoever, not being a member of a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe, forces or intimidates a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe not to vote or to vote to a particular candidate or to vote in a manner other than that provided by law shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to five years and with fine. The Commission has asked the State Government to bring these provisions to the notice of all concerned for prompt action.
15. There are 8,109 polling stations in the State. For the facility of physically challenged persons, instructions have been issued to ensure that all polling stations are, as far as practicable, located at ground floor and ramps are provided. Facilitation shall also be provided for locating elector’s name against a polling station or a group of polling stations through help lines and facilitation centres.
POLLING PARTIES AND RANDOMIZATION
16. Polling parties shall be formed randomly, through a special software. Three-stage randomization will be adopted. First, from a wider district database of eligible officials, a shortlist of about 120% of the required numbers will be randomly picked. This group will be trained for polling duties. In the second stage, from this trained manpower, actual polling parties shall be formed by random selection software in the presence of ECI Observers. In the last stage, the polling stations will be allocated just before the polling party’s departure by random number generation. The Central Government Employees will be utilized for the forthcoming elections to the extent possible.
17. The District Election Officers have been asked to prepare a comprehensive district election plan including communication plan using multi-mode resources such as landline telephones, mobile telephones, wireless sets etc., to facilitate effective monitoring and control on the day of poll. They have also been asked to open Help Lines /Control Rooms in each AC for the convenience of electors.
18. The Commission has issued detailed guidelines for video coverage of all critical events during the election process and polling at all vulnerable polling booths on the poll day. The digital cameras will also be deployed inside the booths wherever needed.
MODEL CODE OF CONDUCT
19. The Model Code of Conduct comes into effect immediately from now onwards. All the provisions of the Model Code will apply to the whole of the State and will be applicable to all candidates, political parties, the State Government and the Union Government from today itself. Attention of the political parties and candidates is particularly invited to the following provisions of the Code:-
“There shall be no appeal to caste or communal feelings for securing votes. Mosques, Churches, Temples or other places of worship shall not be used as forum for election propaganda.”
20. The Commission has prepared the schedule for holding General Election to the Legislative Assembly of Jammu & Kashmir after taking into consideration all relevant aspects like the climatic conditions, academic schedules, festivals, prevailing law and order situation in the State, availability of Central Police Forces, time needed for movement and proper deployment of forces, and assessment of other ground realities.