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Poll panel's fiat on unauthorised structures

By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, FEB. 21. The Election Commission has asked the Centre and all the State Governments to "temporarily suspend" eviction or demolition of unauthorised structures till the Lok Sabha polls conclude.

In a letter to the Union Cabinet Secretary and Chief Secretaries of States and Union Territories on Friday, the Commission said: "In the interest of free and fair elections and to maintain the fidelity of electoral rolls, any demolition/ eviction drives shall be temporarily suspended and shall not be carried out by any Government/civic agencies between now and the completion of the General Election."

The letter said that the Commission was aware that different agencies of the Government were undertaking eviction of slums. The objectives of such actions was appreciable, but what was of concern was the impact that such dislocation of people might have on the fidelity of the electoral rolls to be used in the coming elections, the Commission said.

The electoral roll of a constituency had to be as accurate and up-to-date as was humanly possible for the conduct of free and fair elections.

"Thus, whenever any eviction or demolition drive is taken up by a civic agency, leading to dislocation of the existing electors from their ordinary place of residence, the relevant part of the electoral roll of the Assembly constituency necessarily gets affected and becomes defective inasmuch as a large number of such dislocated electors lose their right to vote at the polling stations to which they have been assigned".

Pointing out that defective rolls might allow unscrupulous elements to resort to bogus voting, the Commission said this might even materially affect the election result in the constituency concerned.

The Commission said that wherever there was any problem in the implementation of its decision because of any orders by any court of law, the State Government or the Centre should bring it to its notice for appropriate directions to ensure due compliance of the Court's orders. In cases of unavoidable dislocation, the Government should place before it all relevant facts, including a suitable rehabilitation plan, to enable the Commission to give appropriate orders for corrective steps to ensure that such dislocated voters were not deprived of their voting rights.

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