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Posts Tagged ‘S K Mishra

On complaints from the Congress, the Election Commission has removed Bhind and Satna Collectors. A common complaint against them was preparation of fake voters’ lists. Bhind Collector Ashish Kumar was said to have included in the voters’ lists the names of residents of Uttar Pradesh. The allegation against Satna Collector Mukesh Kumar Shukla was that he had allowed inclusion of 73 names in the voter’s lists without their applications. The Bhind Collector was further accused of allocating mines and allowing illegal sand excavation and transport from the district while the Satna Collector was said to have helped in Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s ‘Jan Ashirvad Yatra’ in violation of the Model Code of Conduct. Some other government employees have also been removed from their positions following complaints against them that they were helping BJP.

The election law is so inadequate that Election Commission’s wrath hardly works as a deterrent, particularly for IAS and IPS officers. They know that if another party replaces the BJP in the November 28 poll, there will not be much dent in their positions. But if the BJP returns to power, they will be rewarded suitably. It has happened in Madhya Pradesh.

When Chouhan became Chief Minister in November 2005, he was not a member of the Assembly but a member of Lok Sabha. He resigned his Lok Sabha seat and contested from Budhni in Sehore district where a by-election was held following resignation of the MLA who was loyal to Chouhan. Sehore Collector and Returning Officer S K Mishra was removed by the Election Commission at the peak of the campaigning – a rare incident of the Returning Officer being removed a few days before polling. Mishra was openly working more like a BJP worker than an IAS officer. As soon as the Election Commission’s Model Code of Conduct was over, Chouhan made Mishra Bhopal Collector. It was a big jump for the promotee IAS officer to be posted to one of the most prestigious and coveted posts whereas Sehore is one of the smallest districts. Thereafter, Mishra was made Secretary to CM and also Secretary, Mines Department where he supervised illegal mining in which relatives of Chouhan were said to be involved. It was only after an IPS officer, N K Singh, was crushed under the wheels of a dumper carrying illegally mined stones in Morena district, reportedly at the instance of mining mafia, that Mines Department was taken away from Mishra. Singh was getting a bit too zealous in trying to curb illegal mining.

If the dishonest officers helping the BJP are duly rewarded by the party if it returns to power, those doing the election duty diligently and honestly are punished also. Election Commission has no power or mechanism to protect them. During the 2008 Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections, Phoolchand Verma had filed his nomination papers as BJP candidate from Sonkutch (SC) constituency in Dewas district and the Congress candidate was Sajjan Singh Verma. Tukojirao Puar, a Minister of State in Chouhan’s Council of Ministers, was the BJP candidate from Dewas. At the time of the scrutiny, Tukojirao Puar and Phoolchand Verma created a ruckus in the office of Dewas Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) Sanjana Jain, who was the Returning Officer for the Sonkutch (SC) constituency. They wanted Sanjana Jain to reject Sajjan Singh Verma’s nomination papers because, they claimed, he did not submit Form-B (letter of authorisation from the party) within the stipulated time. As Sanjana tried to explain the things, Puar lost his temper and he and Phoolchand Verma started threatening her and shouting that she had taken a bribe of Rs one lakh for adjusting Sajjan Singh Verma’s Form-B submitted belatedly. The rowdy behaviour of the BJP leaders lasted for quite some time.

After receiving a report, accompanied by a CD of the proceedings in her office, from Sanjana Jain, the Election Commission pondered over the matter and directed the Chief Electoral Officer of the Madhya Pradesh to get a criminal case registered against Puar under Sections 186,353 and 506 of IPC. As the Sections make it a cognisable offence, Puar was arrested by the police. At the same time, the Election Commission ordered immediate removal of Dewas Collector Navneet Mohan Kothari, who was the District Returning Officer, for not sending Sanjana Jain’s report to the Commission promptly.

Chouhan told an election meeting at Dewas a few days later that he was proud of Tukojirao Puar. As the BJP returned to power, Chouhan promoted Puar to the cabinet rank. Criminal case against Puar had to fizzle out because it was handled by Chouhan’s police and Chouhan’s prosecutor. Election commission had no role in defending its own action against Puar. A little later, Sanjana Jain was removed from field duty on a flimsy ground and given a desk job at the Academy of Administration in Bhopal.

Why should the officers annoy the party in power by working honestly for Election Commission which cannot defend them against injustice?

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Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi says that time has come for a comprehensive review of the Representation of People’s Act. In his inaugural address at National Interactive Conference on Electoral Laws in New Delhi, he sought inputs on the Act from the legal fraternity present in the Conference. The issue is vital and needs rather a debate at national level because almost everyone is involved in one way or the other in the electoral process. Over the time, certain lacunae have come to the fore which need to be plugged.

For one, the Election Commission needs to develop a mechanism for strict enforcement of its Code of Conduct when the election process starts. Wily politicians have been finding ways to skirt the Code of Conduct as has been witnessed in the past several elections. The officials on election duty, when they go against the Election Commission guidelines, are ‘punished’ by the Commission. The same ‘guilty’ officials are amply rewarded if the party for which they had violated the Election Commission directives, comes to power. This demoralises honest officials.

Here is an example. When Shivraj Singh Chouhan became Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh in 2005, he was not a member of the Assembly, but a member of Lok Sabha. He resigned from Lok Sabha and contested from Budhni constituency in Sehore district. Collector of Sehore (a relatively small district) and Returning Officer S K Mishra was removed by Election Commission a few days before polling for violating the law to help Chouhan. As soon as the Election Commission’s Code of Conduct was over, Chouhan appointed Mishra Collector of Bhopal, one of the most coveted posts, and then Secretary to CM, virtually ridiculing the Election Commission and its Code of Conduct.

Reward for dishonesty

If the dishonest officials are duly rewarded by the party if it returns to power, those doing the election duty diligently and honestly are punished also, and the Election Commission has no power or mechanism to protect them. During the 2008 Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections, Phoolchand Verma had filed his nomination papers as BJP candidate from Sonkutch (SC) constituency in Dewas district. Sajjan Singh Verma was the Congress candidate. Tukojirao Puar, a Minister of State in the Chouhan council of ministers, was the BJP candidate from Dewas.

As the scrutiny of the nomination papers was being held, Tukojirao Puar, accompanied by Phool Chand Verma, created a ruckus in the office of Dewas Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) Sanjana Jain, who was the Returning Officer for the Sonkutch (SC) Assembly constituency. They wanted Sanjana Jain to reject Sajjan Singh Verma’s nomination papers because, they claimed, he did not submit Form-B (letter of authorisation from the party) within the stipulated time. As the lady officer tried to explain the things, Puar had lost his temper and he and Phoolchand Verma had started threatening her and shouting that she had taken a lakh of rupees for adjusting Sajjan Singh Verma’s Form-B, submitted belatedly. The rowdy behaviour of the BJP leaders had lasted for quite some time.

After receiving a report, accompanied by a CD of the proceedings in her office, from Sanjana Jain, the Election Commission pondered over the matter and directed the Chief Electoral Officer of Madhya Pradesh to get a criminal case registered against Puar under Sections 186, 353 and 506 of IPC. As the Sections make it a cognisable offence, Puar was subsequently arrested by the police. At the same time, the Election Commission had ordered immediate removal of Dewas Collector Navneet Mohan Kothari, who was the District Returning Officer, for not sending SDM Sanjana Jain’s report to the Commission promptly. Shivraj Singh Chouhan told an election meeting at Dewas a few days later that he was proud of Tukojirao Puar.

In due course, Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) of Dewas D K Mittal framed charges under Sections 353 (assault or criminal force to deter a public servant from discharge of his duty) and 504 (intentional insult) of Indian Penal Code (IPC) against Puar and Phoolchand Verma.

Meanwhile, BJP had returned to power and Chouhan again become Chief Minister. He promoted Puar to cabinet rank and transferred Sanjana Jain to an insignificant post. The case against Puar and Phoolchand Verma fizzled out. The Election Commission could neither protect Sanjana Jain nor ensure prosecution of Puar and Verma.

There is one more point. While taking up a comprehensive review of the working of Election Commission, a thought may also be given to amalgamation of Election Commission of India and State Election Commissions. At present every State has two establishments, Office of Chief Electoral Officer and State Election Commission. Both perform similar responsibilities, one in respect of Parliamentary and Assembly elections and the other in respect of local bodies. There will be better coordination if both are merged into one which works directly under the Election Commission of India.


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Justice should not be cloistered

Justice is not a cloistered virtue: she must be allowed to suffer the scrutiny and respectful, even though outspoken, comments of ordinary men.

— Lord Atkin in a contempt case in 1936

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