Tripura civic polls: Amid the opposition’s claims of violence, the Supreme Court has directed the Ministry of Home Affairs to deploy two additional companies of CAPF (Central Armed Police Forces) “as expeditiously as possible” to Tripura so as to ensure that the voting for the local body polls which began earlier in the day remains free and fair.
Voting for elections to 222 seats in the Agartala Municipal Corporation (AMC) and other municipal bodies in Tripura is currently underway. Till 1 pm, 43.53 per cent of polling was recorded, an official of the State Election Commission said.
The opposition Trinamool Congress and CPI(M) in the state told a bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, Surya Kant and Vikram Nath that its candidates and supporters have not been allegedly allowed to cast their votes and there is a serious breach of law and order.
The court asked the Tripura Director General of Police and Secretary in the state Department of Home Affairs to “immediately review if there is any additional requirement of further deployment, over and above the above direction and if so, communicate it to the Department of Home Affairs of the Government of India for necessary action”. “Any such request having due regard of the statement made by the Solicitor General shall be duly considered”, the bench directed.
SG Tushar Mehta had assured the Court that should a requisition be made for additional paramilitary forces, the Union Home Ministry would respond immediately in a favourable manner.
The court directed the State Election Commission, the DGP, and Tripura Home Secretary “to ensure that every polling booth is manned by a sufficient strength of CAPF personnel, bearing in mind the sensitivity of the polling station and the need for a requisite number of personnel to guard the polling booths to ensure free and fair elections. The polling officer at each polling booth shall take the help of CAPF personnel, in the event that any exigency arises”.
“Necessary arrangements would also be made for deploying an adequate number of CAPF personnel to ensure the safety of the ballots and to facilitate an unhindered counting of votes, when counting is scheduled to take place”, ordered the court.
On being told that there were insufficient CCTV cameras, the court directed that “in the absence of the installation of CCTV cameras, both the electronic and the print media should have unhindered access for full reporting and coverage of the election process”. It asked the DGP, State Election Commission, and state Home Secretary to issue orders to all the polling officers and other concerned personnel on the ground to give effect to this.
The Trinamool Congress has also alleged that two of their polling agents were assaulted and sustained head injuries. The CPIM has also alleged that “motorcycle-borne goons were disturbing voters and that electors standing in the queue outside polling booths were identified on their political affiliations.” It also claimed that the party supporters were asked to go back without voting.
With 112 seats won uncontested, polling is underway in 222 seats in Agartala Municipal Corporation, seven Municipal Councils, and six Nagar Panchayats. A total of 785 contestants are in the fray.
A total of 5, 94,772 voters are eligible to cast their votes in the civic poll and the number of women voters outnumber male voters in urban areas. The counting of votes will be held on November 28.
(With inputs from ENS, Delhi)