VIJAYAWADA: Andhra Pradesh High Court has issued an order suspending the State Election Commission’s direction not to involve ward volunteers in urban local body polls.
A single-judge bench headed by Justice DVSS Somayajulu said there was no need to suspend all activities of the ward volunteers referring to the impugned order of the SEC permitting the ward volunteers to carry on their normal and routine mandated responsibilities. The court opined that in case any attempts were made by the volunteers, appropriate action for coercion, intimidation and undue influence could be taken up under relevant provisions of the law.
The court observed that conduct of a free and fair poll was the ultimate objective of the SEC and all those involved in the election process and said that if the grievance of the petitioners was that the voters were being threatened for withdrawal of benefits by ward volunteers, the court suggested to the SEC that it could take further steps like setting up 24 hours call centre to receive complaints from each urban local body and also could set up mobile kiosks to receive complaints.
The court also suggested that the SEC could give wide publicity in case the individuals were threatened or coerced to make a complaint by highlighting the legal provisions and in extreme cases, police protection could also be given to the voters to enable them to exercise their franchise.
The court laid stress that an educated and informed voter, conscious of his rights and duties, was the main requirement today.
The SEC’s contention was that the ward volunteers should not be entrusted with the distribution of voters’ slips and they should be without mobile phones as it would result in influencing the voters....