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Lok Sabha Election 2019: Who are EC's observers? All you need to know about their role in ensuring free and fair polls

Observers of the Election Commission of India (ECI) are appointed under the powers conferred on it by Section 20B of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 and the plenary powers available to the Commission under the Constitution of India. They are the appointees of the Commission working under the superintendence, control and discipline of the Commission for the period from their appointment until the process of election is completed.

The Representation of the People Act, 1951 was amended in August 1996 to add a new Section 20B. This provides statutory powers to the Observers to watch the conduct of elections and especially in respect of counting of votes.

Roles and duties
The General and Police Observers are expected to assist the Commission in the conduct of free and fair polls. They also oversee the efficient and effective management of the electoral process at the field level. For all purposes, they act as the eyes and ears of the Commission during the period of the election and provide direct inputs to the Commission from the field as an interface with the election machinery the candidates, political parties, and electors to ensure that the Acts, rules, procedures, instructions and guidelines related to elections are strictly and impartially complied with by all concerned.

Appointment and briefing 
The appointment of an officer as an Observer and the intimation for the briefing meeting shall be communicated by the ECI through the nodal officer of the State and Central Government who shall coordinate with Election Commission for various issues including provision of the list of officers for appointment as observers.

 Lok Sabha Election 2019: Who are ECs observers? All you need to know about their role in ensuring free and fair polls

Representational Image. News18

No Observer is allowed to go on a foreign trip during the period intervening between the briefing session and the completion of the election process. Moreover, no officer appointed as Observer or kept in Reserve List shall proceed on any kind of leave without prior approval of the Commission till the completion of the election in Constituency (ies) in which officer has been appointed as
Observer or for which Observer has been kept in reserve.

Observer portal
A web portal has been made for observers on the website of the ECI — www.eci.gov.in, with all the latest instructions and messages of the Commission available on the portal.

Specific roles of observers

a) Observing the processes of scrutiny of nominations and withdrawal of candidature by the RO, and Report back to the Commission promptly in case of any irregularity;

b) Examination of the video clipping of the nomination process as well as making a proper investigation on the complaints received in connection with the process of nomination. Also to examine the unresolved grievances by the candidate/ political parties about the allotment of symbols;

c) Effective monitoring of the implementation of MCC and detecting cases of violation of the model code of conduct by watching the video clippings of various meetings and, if needed, even by visiting important rallies to get first-hand input, enforcement of the defacement of property act, training of Micro-Observers and such other things;

d) Though checking the account of the expenditure of the candidates is entrusted to Expenditure Observers, however, General Observer is also required to do so, in case of exigencies, if directed by the Commission.

e) Tracking dispatch of postal ballot papers to the service voters, ensuring the setting up of the facilitation counters for polling officials, police and security personnel, etc., in accordance with the recent guidelines of the Commission and sending a specific report in this regard to the Commission.

f) Checking randomisation software, reviewing the process of randomisation of the polling personnel, obtaining a report from the DEO regarding first level randomization; and

g) Observing and regulating the counting process. The observer has to sign the round wise counting sheets as proof of his/her satisfaction. She/he can direct the Returning Officer to stop the counting of votes or declaration of result, if she/he notices any irregularities and bring the matter to the notice of the Commission for further directions.

Some of the important Dos and Donts of election commission observers are as follows:

DOs
1. Identification of areas/polling stations which might require closer attention
2. Familiarise yourself with the use of EVMs/VVPATs, and attend some training rehearsals
3. Ensure that sufficient publicity regarding EVM/VVPATs has been given so that media and the general public have no misgivings about EVMs/VVPATs
4. Make an independent assessment of the Law and Order situation in general
5. Make a random check of as many polling stations as possible and verify them
6. Monitor instances of violation of Model Code, ban on transfer, etc.
7. Monitor the deployment of central forces to have maximum impact
8. Bring any development that merits immediate remedial action or attention of the Commission, to Returning Officer’s / Commission’s notice without any loss of time. Such information should not be deferred till the regular reports are submitted
9. Make an independent assessment of the expenditure incurred by a candidate, political party or any other person
10. The Observers must maintain strict confidentiality in the submission of their reports and assessments to the Commission

DON’Ts
1. Do not leave your headquarters once you have been allotted specific constituencies without the prior written permission of the Commission
2. Do not defer submitting reports of any development, which requires immediate remedial action; bring it to the Commission’s notice by fastest means
3. The Observers must not make any unauthorised public statements and exercise due caution before taking any definitive position in any election-related matter
4. The observers should not appear to be partial and exhibit political neutrality through their conduct and behavior
5. The observers shall NOT interact with any media persons (except to receive any inputs or information offered by them), or give any form of press briefings or press releases regarding their assessment or actions, without the express authorisation from the Commission.
6. The observers must abstain from expressing any views or opinions which may be directly or indirectly construed as support or preference for, or prejudice against any particular political party, coalition or candidate even in their private discourse with their colleagues or the election officials. This also applies to their interaction through electronic medium like WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook or other social media platforms.
7. Observers must ensure that no part of the report or election-related information is shared with any unauthorised person or agency.
8. The Observers are not deployed on a fault-finding mission, but to objectively assess the poll preparedness, identify the critical gaps and guide the DEO/RO to address them.
9. If any shortcoming or lacunae in the actions or performance of any election official in the state is not being addressed despite reminding the field machinery, it should be communicated to the CEO and the Commission, instead of direct confrontation or over-zealous criticism

The Election Commission recently held a meeting of central observers in New Delhi as a part of preparations for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls. The meeting was held to brief them about their roles and responsibilities during election duty. This was the first such meeting since election dates were declared in March.

The observers are drawn from various central services, such as the Indian Revenue Service, the Indian Administrative Service, and the Indian Police Service. They are considered to be on EC duty till the elections process ends.

Later in April, in a video conference with Central Observers to review the poll preparedness and other necessary activities the Election Commission sought a presentation from them on the following points:

i) Distribution of photo voter slip

ii) Arrangements of Polling Stations and management of PWD voters

iii) EVM/VVPAT arrangement

iv) Grievance monitoring

v) SUVIDHA and permissions to Political Parties and Candidates

vi) MCC cases and their disposal

vii) Any other important qualitative inputs

Moreover, the Police Observers were specifically assigned to brief the Commission on the following:

i) Preparation of District Security/Force Deployment plan

ii) Use of CPF for area domination and confidence building

iii) Law and Order situation

iv) Any other important issue or concern

Whereas, the Expenditure Observers were required to update the EC on issues related to monitoring and deployment such as:

i) Deployment of FS, SST & VST

ii) Complaint Monitoring Cell

iii) Seizures made by FS, SST & Police

iv) Maintenance of Shadow Observation Register

v) Inspection of Candidates Accounts

vi) Any other important point

Further, all Central Observers attending the meeting were asked to submit a “Status Note” on the critical gaps, urgent actionable points, crucial issues or other significant inputs, if any, for the attention of the Commission.

The Central Observers thus act as an essential link between the ECI and the booth-level officers (BLO) entrusted with the task of ensuring the conduct of free and fair elections in the area of their deployment.

Your guide to the latest election news, analysis, commentary, live updates and schedule for Lok Sabha Elections 2019 on firstpost.com/elections. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram or like our Facebook page for updates from all 543 constituencies for the upcoming general elections.

Updated Date: Apr 10, 2019 17:13:14 IST