EC gets expert advice to begin J&K poll process

New Delhi: The Supreme Court verdict on a 2002 Presidential Reference mandates EC to start the process of holding assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir immediately, if it is convinced the environment is conducive for free and fair polls, former additional solicitor general Vikas Singh has told EC. Singh in his advice said it was incumbent on the poll panel alone to take the decision, as outlined in Article 324(6), it is learnt. The poll panel had sought Singh’s legal opinion “in the context of the ongoing President’s rule in Jammu & Kashmir.”
EC is yet to take a final view and is examining all aspects of the issue. The J&K government and Union home ministry had in written replies expressed inability to provide enough security forces for holding immediate assembly elections. However, Clause 6 of Article 324 says “the President, or the governor of a state, shall, when so requested by the Election Commission, make available to it or to a regional commissioner such staff as may be necessary for the discharge of the functions conferred on the Election Commission.”
The SC had cited Article 324 in its 2002 verdict to say the “question of whether free and fair election is possible to be held or not has to be objectively assessed by the Election Commission by taking into consideration all relevant aspects. Efforts should be to hold the election and not to defer holding of elections.”
ET had on April 29 reported that EC’s three special observers appointed in March to assess the ground situation in J&K had suggested a “post-Lok Sabha election window” for assembly polls after discussions with political parties and officials. However, MHA and the J&K administration recently told EC in an April 26 meeting that polls should be held either in September or October-November, citing security requirements for the tourist season, Ramazan and Amarnath Yatra.

J&K has been without an elected government after BJP pulled out of the coalition government with PDP last June. The state was placed under governor’s rule, on June 19, 2018, followed by President’s Rule on December 19.
President’s rule will have to be extended by June 20 by the newly constituted Lok Sabha but only if EC feels that polls cannot be conducted and communicates the same in writing.
EC assessments when Lok Sabha polls were declared was that assembly elections would require considerable presence of security personnel. There are 87 assembly constituencies and 8-10 contestants are expected for each seat.
An estimated 150-200 companies of security personnel would be needed just for providing security for candidates.

Via: ET

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