‘Officials have been transferred to ensure a free and fair election’

N RAMAKRISHNAN ASHWINI PHADNIS Chennai/New Delhi | Updated on January 20, 2018

TS Krishnamurthy, former Chief Election Commissioner

Former CEC Krishnamurthy says poll panel probes plaints before transferring officials

Earlier this week, the Election Commission effected a minor reshuffle of the police apparatus in Tamil Nadu, including appointing a Director-General of Police (Elections), entrusting him with the task of conducting the polls. It also replaced the Chennai Police Commissioner and appointed a new head for the State’s Intelligence department. Tamil Nadu goes to the polls on May 16.

Opposition parties in the State had been demanding that a few senior police officials be shifted as these officials, they alleged, were partial to the ruling AIADMK.

As expected, the AIADMK has protested the transfers.

‘EC within its rights’

Former Chief Election Commissioner TS Krishnamurthy said the EC was well within its rights to shift the officials in the interest of free and fair elections. The officials are not transferred merely because there is a complaint against them.

The EC carries out its own probe and orders the transfer once satisfied that the changes are needed to ensure fair polls. The changes, he said, were never a reflection on the police officials.

Krishnamurthy also said the EC could order a rejig of police officials if it had even an iota of doubt that elections would not be free and fair.

In April, the EC had transferred the Kolkata Police Commissioner, a move that drew the ire of the ruling Trinamool Congress in West Bengal.

Krishnamurthy and EC officials say the EC would be criticised either way – if the officials were transferred the poll panel would come under fire from the ruling party, and if it didn’t, it would face criticism from the Opposition parties. It was a case of damned if you don’t and damned if you do. This was something that the EC had to live with, he said.

On the recent changes in Tamil Nadu, a senior EC official said there were “legal complications” in removing Tamil Nadu’s DGP. The entire police machinery will be reporting to the DG (Elections). “We are not saying for how long, but he is DGP (Elections) for the entire police machinery to ensure peaceful and fair elections,” the official said.

DGP's removal

Officials claim the decision to remove the DGP was taken after it came to the Commission’s knowledge about two weeks ago that the official “had retired and was continuing on contract”.

The Commission’s officials mention the removal of the Director-General (Intelligence) from his position as he was alleged to be sharing information with State Government. A few IAS officials were also transferred at the EC’s instance. The Collector of Karur was removed as he is said to have impeded the process of raids and searches.

Ever since elections were announced and campaigning got under way in Tamil Nadu, police have been conducting random search of vehicles on the roads, with the whole process being videographed, for cash and other items that might be used to influence voters.

Published on May 06, 2016

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