A DAY after Mamata Banerjee wrote to the Election Commission (EC) to protest the transfer of four senior police officers, the poll panel on Sunday termed the West Bengal Chief Minister’s remarks as “unfortunate” and “factually incorrect”.
In a letter addressed to Banerjee, the Commission wrote that the EC is fully within its rights under Section 28A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, to act against police officers on poll duty.
Section 28A states, “any police officer designated for the time being by the State Government, for the conduct of any election shall be deemed to be on deputation to the Election Commission for the period commencing on and from the date of the notification calling for such election and ending with the date of declaration of the results of such election and accordingly, such officers shall, during that period, be subject to the control, superintendence and discipline of the Election Commission.”
Days before the Lok Sabha elections, the poll panel ordered the transfer of four officers, including the Commissioners of Kolkata and Bidhannagar, and relieved them of all election-related duties. On Saturday, Banerjee wrote to the EC, accusing it of acting “at the behest of the BJP”.
“A few days back, it was in the press statements of BJP leaders making comments that senior officers of the state in the police administration would soon be replaced by the EC… Just soon thereafter the order of the Commission on removal of officers was received. This flow of events gives rise to strong doubts whether the Commission is functioning as per its Constitutional mandate of conducting free and fair elections or working in a manner to appease the ruling BJP at the Centre,” Banerjee had written.
The EC, in its response, said, “It is unfortunate that an exercise carried out by the ECI only during the duration of Model Code of Conduct is being labelled as arbitrary, motivated at the behest of the ruling party at the centre. It would not be correct and dignified to respond to such averments to prove/burnish its credentials.”
It also wrote that the decision was based on “cumulative feedback” of the Special Police Observer for West Bengal, Vivek Dubey, and the Deputy Election Commissioner in charge of the state. Adding that the EC officials spent two days in Kolkata to assess the in-depth review of the preparedness and fairness of electoral process, it wrote, “The officers who have posted in place of the four officers are of similar seniority and being from West Bengal cadre they are expected to know about field situation of the state.”