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HANDBOOK FOR RETURNING OFFICERS(At Elections where Electronic Voting Machines are used)

2009

Nirvachan Sadan, Ashoka Road New Delhi-110 001

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HANDBOOK FOR RETURNING OFFICERS

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CONTENTSChapter Chapter I Chapter II Chapter III Chapter IV Chapter V Chapter VI Chapter VII Chapter VIII Chapter IX Chapter X Chapter XI Chapter XII Chapter XIII Chapter XIII A Chapter XIV Chapter XV Chapter XVI Chapter XVII Chapter XVIII PARTICULARS Preliminary Polling Stations Polling Personnel Election Materials Nominations Scrutiny Withdrawal of Candidatures Allotment of Symbols Uncontested Election Ballot Papers and Voting Machines Arrangements for Poll Preparations for the Poll - Commissioning of Electronic Voting Machines The Poll Use of EVMs at Simultaneous Elections Counting of Votes Declaration and Publication of Result of Election Return and Forfeiture of Deposits Accounts of Election Expenses Miscellaneous Page No. 3 - 19 20 - 30 31 - 40 41 42 - 62 63 - 72 73 - 78 79 - 87 88 - 89 90 - 118 119 - 125 126 - 146 147 - 184 185 - 195 196 - 224 225 - 229 230 - 232 233 - 244 245 - 437

Annexure I to Annexure XLVII

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CHAPTER - I PRELIMINARY 1.1 Returning Officer plays a pivotal role in the election management. A Returning Officer is responsible for overseeing election in one constituency may be two constituencies at the most. A Returning Officer is called so because he holds the election in the constituency and returns the result. Conduct of credible and periodic election has been the hallmark of modern democratic India. Indian electoral system has gained a worldwide reputation and being a Returning Officer you have a great responsibility to further strengthen this reputation. Many of you must have already been Returning Officer in the earlier elections; even then, you are required to go through this Handbook chapter by chapter carefully. There have been tremendous changes in the approach and methodology of the election management in the country over a period of time, particularly, in recent times. The elections are being more and more micro managed as an institutional responsibility to the growing complexities associated with the elections. In this Preliminary chapter we may outline some of the salient features of the election management in the light of new guidelines and instructions issued by the Election Commission of India in recent times. Greater emphasis is being laid on the defect free electoral roll. Consequent upon introduction of Booth Level Officer system, the identification and removal of names of the dead voters and the shifted voters has become more accurate and this has helped the election machinery in ensuring enhanced fidelity of the electoral rolls. This aspect must have been taken care of by the Electoral Registration Officer. As the Returning Officer, you should also be consciously aware of the importance being given by the Election Commission of India to the fidelity of roll to be used on the poll day and carry out all the instructions issued by the Commission in this regard. It is relevant to note that mere peaceful conduct of elections no way guarantees a free and fair election. In spite of election being peaceful, there could still be malpractices that can take place if the election machinery is not vigilant. Election can be called truly free and fair election only when all the stakeholders perceive and accept the election to be free and fair. As the Returning Officer you have to meticulously plan a strategy so that there is no scope left for any complaint. The election management should be transparent and there should not be any scope for complaint of partiality on the part of any official involved in the election management. The Commission takes very serious view about lack of neutrality on the part of any election official. A visible and rigorous enforcement of Model Code of Conduct enhance the credibility of the elections and gives confidence to the voters. Misuse

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of official machinery for the electoral purposes shall not be allowed, electoral offences, malpractices and corrupt practices such as impersonation, bribing and inducement of voters, threat and intimidation to the voters, shall be prevented by all means. Introduction of photo electoral roll by the Election Commission is expected to play a crucial role in minimizing the scope for impersonation. The recent instruction that the polling agent appointed by the candidate shall be a voter in the same polling station aims at minimizing the external interference in the election process at the polling station. The threat and intimidation to the voters particularly, the voters from vulnerable sections of the society in some parts of the country has been a cause of concern. With a view to meet this challenge, the Commission has recently introduced the system of Vulnerability Mapping. You should familiarize yourself with the concept of Vulnerability Mapping and implement the Commissions instruction scrupulously. A free and fair election can be conducted only in a conducive atmosphere from the law and order point of view. Hence, it becomes imperative to keep track of the law and order situation during the run up to the election and on the poll day. The Electronic Voting Machine was used universally in all polling stations in the country during the Lok Sabha election 2004. However, the voter awareness about the EVM cannot be taken for granted; there should be a fresh initiative to spread the awareness about the EVM among all the voters particularly, in the remote areas and among the new voters. The Commission has introduced the system of randomization of EVMs and specific responsibility has been given to the Returning Officer. The sector management has become an important aspect of the election management. Hence, care needs to be taken while identifying the sector officers and they need to be trained about their work in advance. You need to give lot of importance to the training of the polling personnel. If the training is not done properly you will face lot of difficulties on the poll day. The Commission has introduced postal ballot reform in recent elections. The new system calls for a greater involvement on the part of Returning Officer in managing postal ballot. Another important pre-condition for fair election is to curb the money power which undermines the level playing field. This can be achieved by keeping a proper watch on expenditure incurred by the candidate/political parties. The Commissions instruction to keep watch on campaign vehicles and strict enforcement of Commissions instruction on Defacement of public and private properties as applicable to the State/Union Territory concerned is expected to have the desired effect. Effective coordination is the essence of an efficient election management. As a Returning Officer you need to play vital coordinating role by constantly interacting with the District Electoral Officer, Commissions Observers and other stakeholders like political parties and the candidates

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and election agents. You should facilitate the Commissions Observers to deliver their assigned duties effectively by extending your cooperation. The Commission has also introduced the system of micro observers and also for use of digital cameras at some pre-selected sensitive polling stations where Central Police Forces cannot be deployed. The Commissions instructions in this regard should be strictly followed. You should have a thorough idea about the polling station-wise deployment of security personnel including Central Police Forces, if any, and ensure that the approved deployment is implemented properly. You should pay enough attention to the effective management of dispatch centres from where the polling personnel are sent to the polling stations with the EVMs and also of reception centres polling parties with where the polled EVMs are received. The basic amenities for the polling personnel shall arranged be provided. Transparency is the key for an effective and efficient election management for transparency adds to the credibility of the election. Hence, you should keep the political parties and candidates informed of the Commissions instructions from time to time. Your interaction with the media should be positive and you should make good use of the media to disseminate relevant information to the voters as well as to the other stakeholders. To sum up, it may be said that as Returning Officer you are going to play a very important role in ensuring a free and fair election in your constituency. If only you are thorough with the provisions of law and aware of the Commissions recent instruction you can lead your team to deliver a free and fair election. Hence, it would be beneficial for you to go through the Returning Officers handbook and note down the important points for your guidance.

ROLE OF RETURNING OFFICER 2.1 You are the Returning Officer for a constituency in which voting machines are going to be used. You should, therefore, acquaint yourself fully with the upto date rules and procedures prescribed for the conduct of elections by voting machines. You should not only familiarize yourself thoroughly with each step to be taken at various stages of the election process, but also with the operation of voting machines. The smooth conduct of election right from the issue of the public notice and till the declaration of the result mainly depends on you and the electoral machinery under you. You have a well defined and a vital role to play in the electoral process. A slight mistake or lapse or wrong application of the law or rules or inadequate knowledge of various functions of the voting machines may vitiate the election. This Handbook is designed to give you the informat

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