District Election Officer giving the certificate. Photo courtesy: ecisveep.nic.in
Be it Lok Sabha or Assembly elections, the power of the Collector increases. Their rights increase. Candidates have to take their permission for every small and big change. These changes do not happen just like that. It is mentioned in the Constitution how during the election process, the power of the administrative structure comes into the hands of the Election Commission. That means the state government cannot interfere. Any kind of political influence does not work.
In such a situation, the question is how super power comes in the hands of DM or Collector, be it MLA or MP, no one’s status matters. This is understood through the Constitution and legal experts.
How does the power of DM/Collector increase in elections?
To understand how and why their power increases, we have to understand Article 324 of the Constitution. Supreme Court Advocate Ashish Pandey says, the responsibility of conducting assembly elections and or Lok Sabha elections in the country has been given to the Election Commission. This has been mentioned in Article 324 of the Indian Constitution. Since the Election Commission does not have a large administrative structure of its own, such a provision has been made in the Constitution itself so that that arrangement can be made available to it during elections.
Sub-section 6 of Article 324 says, whenever the Election Commission conducts elections and demands from the Government the requirements related to it, the Government will fulfill their demands. In this way, during elections, the administrative structure of the state or center is handed over to the Election Commission to do its work.
If we understand in simple language, once the code of conduct is implemented, the Election Commission gets control of the administrative structure of the state or country. This can be understood with an example. For example, the state government cannot post any officer during this period. From here the power of administrative officials also increases. Let us understand this with the example of assembly elections.
After the implementation of the code of conduct, the DM or Collector of the district becomes the District Election Officer. Along with this, their power and rights also increase.
How much power increases?
It is the responsibility of the District Election Officer to conduct peaceful elections without any discrimination in the district. Their responsibilities increase during elections, hence they fulfill it by making the SDM of the district as the returning officer. Whatever nominations candidates make in state elections, they do it through SDM i.e. Returning Officer.
The power of district election officers does not increase just like that. In elections, duty is imposed on those officials on whom the system has more confidence or on whom there is no controversy. Before the elections, the Election Commission reviews it and if it feels that any officer should be transferred or posted somewhere else, then it gives advice to the government. And the government also accepts this.
Now let us talk about the power of DM i.e. District Election Officer. It starts with implementing the code of conduct in the district. Usually the influence of leaders is seen on the system, but this does not happen at the time of elections because the code of conduct comes into force. During this period, even the state government cannot interfere in any way. All control comes to the Election Commission. The District Election Officer decides what will or will not happen in the district.
Whether the candidate has to take out a rally or take any kind of permission, all this is decided by the DM i.e. District Election Officer. For every small and big permission, the candidate or his representative has to make rounds of them. In case of lack of nomination, the returning officer appointed by them can even reject it. They are also responsible for deciding how much the candidate will spend, how he will hold the rally, what he can do and what not. If the candidate or his representative does anything that does not fall within the scope of the code of conduct, then they can take direct action. They remain in power from voting to counting and till the next government is declared.
Also read: How safe is the EVM in the strong room, how will the counting of votes happen, if the power goes out?