THE ELECTION Commission (EC) has asked the Mizoram government to send a panel of names for the post of Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), following demands for the ouster of the incumbent, S B Shashank.
The development came a day after a high-level team from the EC, led by Deputy Election Commissioner Sudeep Jain, met representatives of civil society groups demanding Shashank’s removal in Mizoram on Friday.
Sources said that any decision on Shashank’s transfer would be taken only after the EC has “examined the suitability of the panel of officers” suggested by the state government. Meanwhile, Shashank, who was summoned by the Commission for a meeting this week, has been in Delhi since Wednesday.
As first reported by The Indian Express on November 1, Shashank had complained to the EC of “direct interference” by the state in the preparation for polls, following which the Commission ordered the removal of Mizoram Principal Secretary (Home Department) L Chuaungo.
Chuaungo’s removal irked the state government, political parties and civil society groups of the state. On Monday, Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi demanding Shashank’s removal.
In his complaint, Shashank had alleged insensitivity on the part of the state regarding voting rights of the displaced Bru community living in relief camps in Tripura, and referred to the “active role” played by Chuaungo in the revision of electoral rolls and deployment of central security forces.
Over 30,000 Brus were displaced from Mizoram 21 years ago following ethnic clashes. Many of them are living in six camps in the Kanchanpur and Panisagar sub-divisions of North Tripura.
The Brus want polling booths set up at the camps, saying that they fear a law-and-order problem if they go to Mizoram to vote. But civil society groups in Mizoram say no electoral process of the state should be conducted outside.
The EC has defended the CEO and its decision to replace Chuaungo. The Commission justified the decision to remove him in its letter to office of the Mizoram Chief Minister sent on Monday.
The missive, addressed to the Principal Secretary to CM, Lalram Thanga, states that the Commission’s decision was taken “only after observing in great detail the sequence of events over the past two months”. It reiterates that Chuaungo’s letter, dated September 13, to District Election Officers of Mamit, instructing them to not consider the identification slips for any purpose other than repatriation of refugees, was nothing but “interference in the process of elections”.