CEC won’t invite any group to watch elections in J&K
18 June 2002
The Daily Excelsior
Jammu: The Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) of India J M Lyngdoh said here today that the Election Commission wouldn’t invite any individual or organisation to function as observers for ensuing Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir, which is due in September-October this year. A statement circulated by the Election Commissioner in Lyngdoh’s crowded press conference at Guest House here this morning, however, said that if any individual, associated with the conduct of elections in his country, which has good democratic credentials, then he-she can come to see the election in their individual capacity. ''The visit will be subject to necessary clearance by the Government'', it said, adding ''on its part, the Election Commission shall not invite any group, body or organisation to function as observers for the J&K elections''. ''Our law on elections, unlike the election systems of some other countries does not allow foreign observers. But, on the other hands, it enjoins the Election Commission to appoint its own observers who are senior civil servants'', the statement pointed out. The Election Commission, however, maintained that there would be no restrictions on foreign media to cover the elections. ''As in elections in other parts of the country, in the coming Jammu and Kashmir elections also the Election Commission will rely on media reports including those in the foreign media. So the media, including foreign media, will have easy access to polling stations'', the statement said. Commenting on the hype generated for the polls due by October, Lyngdoh said ''you have got an international angle and whole world is watching. That is the difference.'' It enjoins the Election Commission to appoint its own observers who are senior civil servants, he said, adding India has a large pool of such neutral civil servants. Replying to a question on his yesterday’s statement in Srinagar warning security forces against coercion of the voters, Lyngdoh said he had no reports that security forces had coerced the voters in the previous elections. He clarified that the issue had cropped up during his conversation with some political parties. Despite militancy, Lyngdoh said, there was a ‘definite possibility’ to have free and fair Assembly elections in the State. He refused to answer more queries on free and fair polls especially a specific question that whether previous elections in J&K were unfair. ''Our business is to hold free and fair Assembly elections in the State. And, whosoever comes in the way of fair polls would be treated as an obstruction. That obstruction has to be removed'', he said, adding ''the security arrangements were duty of the Government. Referring to the complaints of political parties regarding eligibility of electoral rolls that were raised during his visit to the State in March in the aftermath of February 21 by- election to Jammu-Poonch Lok Sabha sear, Lyngdoh said he had ordered computerisation of the electoral rolls. ''The computerised rolls now would be published very shortly and their copies would be supplied to all national and State political parties'', he said, adding ‘the Election Commission’s office in Uttar Pardesh and Urdu Academy, Lucknow had helped in providing Urdu software for publication of the computerised electoral rolls’. Describing computerised electoral rolls as ‘significant piece of work’, the CEC congratulated the district officers and Revenue authorities for making it possible. Lyngdoh said the demand of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) was easy to meet with. A total of 8,000 EVMs would be used in the elections. Polling staff as well as representatives of the political parties would be trained in use of the EVMs, he added. Regarding issuance of identity cards, he said the use of cards would be optional and not compulsory. The cards issued would be multi-purpose cards. The I-cards can’t be issued to all voters in such a short span of time as the Election Commissioner office has only six control tables as against a total of 60 control tables required for the purpose, he asserted. Regarding security of the candidate and political workers for the elections and campaigning, the CEC said the necessary directions had been issued to Union Home Ministry which, in turn, has directed the State Government to take all necessary steps. Lyngdoh parried a question on the voting pattern of Kashmiri and border migrants.