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Govt for legal opinion on NOTA

Shillong, Jan. 21: The Meghalaya government is seeking legal opinion on whether the non-implementation of the “none of the above” (NOTA) option in the electronic voting machines (EVM) in the forthcoming election to the two autonomous district councils in the state will attract contempt of the Supreme Court.

The election to elect the new 29 members to the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) and the Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council (JHADC) using EVMs was officially announced at a news conference here today.

The election will be conducted by the district council affairs (DCA) of the Meghalaya government instead of the state election department.

Unveiling the programmes related to the polls, DCA commissioner and secretary Jopthiaw Lyngdoh said the date for constituencies to elect their representatives would be notified on February 5, the day when the model code of conduct would also come into effect.

While polling to both the councils will be held on February 24, the counting of votes will take place on February 27.

Filing of nominations by candidates will begin from February 5 and the last date for submission of nomination papers is February 10. The scrutiny of nomination papers will also take place on the same day after 3pm.

The last date for the withdrawal of nomination papers is February 12. The finalisation and publication of valid nomination and the allocation of symbols to eligible candidates will be held on February 13.

Lyngdoh said the draft electoral rolls have been published on January 10 and the last date for filing of claims and objections has been fixed on January 25.

While claims and objections will be disposed of on January 29, publication of the final electoral rolls will be made on February 4.

Lyngdoh said the EVMs to be procured by the DCA from the Electronic Corporation of India Limited (ECIL) would be used in the polls.

The DCA commissioner and secretary, though, made it clear that NOTA would not be made available on the EVMs. However, he said the state advocate general’s opinion would be sought on whether non-utilisation of the NOTA button on the EVMs may attract contempt of the apex court, which had ruled on September 27, 2013, that the right to register a “none of the above” vote in elections should apply.

“We will take the view of the advocate general on this matter,” Lyngdoh said while informing that the DCA has so far procured only 417 EVMs and another 1,925 machines would be ordered from the ECIL for the polls.

According to Lyngdoh, the expense limit of Rs 2.5 lakh for each candidate contesting the district council elections has been fixed. He added that the poll code coming into force from February 5 includes restrictions on the maximum number of vehicles to be used by contesting candidates, organising public meeting and the use of loudspeakers, announcement and implementation of schemes among other restrictions.

The DCA department has earmarked over Rs 9.06 crore for conducting the polls. It is working out the number of hyper sensitive and sensitive polling stations, including the total number of electorates in both KHADC and JHADC to be published on February 4.

On the criticism against the six-month extension of the tenure of the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council (GHADC) waiting for the enhancement of 40 seats as demanded by the militant outfit, A’chik National Volunteer Council, the DCA official said the state government, which was the signatory to the “agreed text for settlement”, wanted to see that the commitment was fulfilled for achieving lasting peace.

Lyngdoh, however, agreed that though the Union cabinet may approve the “agreed text for settlement”, the demand for more seats in the district councils would materialise only through an amendment to the Sixth Schedule.

At present, each of the three councils, KHADC, JHADC and GHADC, created according to the provisions of the Sixth Schedule, has 29 elected members and one nominated member.