ECI keeps full faith in the integrity and fairness of Sudeep Jain, deputy election commissioner-in-charge of Bengal polls

ECI keeps full faith in the integrity and fairness of Sudeep Jain, deputy election commissioner-in-charge of Bengal polls

Hummingbird News Desk

NEW DELHI, 5 MARCH: The Election Commission of India (ECI) on Friday expressed full faith in the integrity and fairness of Deputy Election Commissioner (DEC) Sudeep Jain, who is in charge of the West Bengal Assembly polls at its headquarters, in the wake of media reports about a TMC MP’s complaint demanding his removal.

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The MP had sent the letter to the West Bengal Chief Electoral Officer, a copy of which was forwarded to the ECI.

In a statement, the ECI said all its DECs and other officials posted at its headquarters and those working in the field were “discharging their duties strictly as per the Constitution of India and the various extant rules regarding the conduct of elections”.

“There could be an odd exception here or there, in which case EC takes corrective action immediately. In the immediate case, the Commission has full faith in the integrity and fairness of Sudeep Jain, DEC. Unfortunately, it is not for the first time that a concerted campaign is mounted against senior officers of the Commission on the eve of/during the process of elections,” it stated.

The ECI said the media reports mentioned the allegations cited by the TMC about two decisions taken by Mr. Jain during the 2019 Lok Sabha election, when also he was in charge of the West Bengal elections at the Commission’s headquarters.

“It is clarified that both these decisions were taken by the Commission in the interest of holding free fair and peaceful elections and implemented by the district election machinery under supervision of DEC, Chief Electoral Officer, Police Nodal Officer and other concerned senior officials,” said the ECI.

Mr DerekOBrien on 4 March wrote a letter to Election Commission requesting him to remove deputy Election Commissioner Sudeep Jain as in-charge of Election Commission of India for West Bengal for 2021 election.

“In a letter, Mr O’Brien  wrote,”I am writing to you on behalf of All India Trinamul Congress to bring to your notice the irregular/illegal actions of Shri Sudeep Jain, in-charge of the West Bengal Assembly Elections 2021. 

The letter stated: “at a roadshow/rally in Bengal during Lok Sabha elections in 2019, led by Shri Amit Shah, a mob of supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party attacked Vidyasagar College, and vandalised Vidyasagar College as well as a statue of Shri Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar. In the aftermath of the same, Shri Sudeep Jain furnished an erroneous and biased report based on which, the Election Commission of India in an unprecedented manner, barred election campaigning two days prior to the polling date. Only one political party, Bharatiya Janata Party, was allowed to complete its election campaigning for that day before such a bar was announced. No explanation was sought, no show-cause was issued, no action was taken by the Election Commission of India against the perpetrators, i.e., Shri Amit Shah or his entourage. 

Mr O’Brien in.his letter stated that “actions were completely biased, partisan, reeked of partiality and tainted. “

Mr DerekOBrien also pointed out that during the Lok Sabha elections of 2019, Shri Sudeep Jain introduced the concept of Quick Response Team comprising state police and Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) to be led by an officer of CAPF. 

The scheme of the Constitution of India mandates that a State shall have the right to deal with ‘Public Order’ and ‘Police’, under Entries 1 and 2, respectively, of List Il of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution. Any deviation from the same would tantamount to an attack against the ideals of federalism, which has been recognised as an essential feature and a part of the basic structure of the Constitution. There is no provision anywhere to give power to the CAPF to control or command the State Police. The State Police functions under the exclusive superintendence of the state Government as per relevant laws applicable to it, including but not limited to the Code of Criminal Procedure.

Mr O’Brien pointed out that there exists a functional dichotomy between the CAPF and the State Police. Even the training and knowledge of both the forces, including the purview of their operations differ largely, and as such, cannot be compared. In a situation necessitating deployment of CAPF, other than during the times of elections, such  forces are to operate in aid of the state police and in cooperation with the civil administration and cannot supplant or usurp the civil-police power of the state. During elections, their deployment is to work under command and in aid of the state police for local area domination, static duties etc. Even under the plenary powers of Article 324 of the Constitution of India, the Election Commission cannot take a decision of such nature since the same is completely beyond the realm of law.

For such reasons, the said decision as introduced and/or communicated by Shri Sudeep Jain was bad in law. Subsequently, the Election Commission of India realized the wrong and the decision for QRT to be led by an officer of the CAPF was withdrawn, Mr O’Brien stated.

“Under the circumstances, we have serious doubt that Shri Sudeep Jain would be impartial, fair and his approach towards all parties would be equal for the reason that all his actions were favourable to and/or are tilted towards BJP and/or are undue, illegal and/or unconstitutional We have no confidence in Shri Sudeep Jain”,Mr O’Brien stated in the letter.

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