Himachal Pradesh Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Maneesh Garg has said that the representatives of political parties, if desired, can be taken periodically to the inner parameter of strong rooms in batches to see and verify the strong room’s security.
In a meeting with the representatives of the political parties held here on Wednesday, he said that a log book entry will be made by the in-charge Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) for any person entering the inner corridor. There is a three-tier guarding system for the strong rooms, he added.
Garg said: “The first tier, which is the innermost parameter, is guarded by the CAPF armed guards 24 x 7. For this purpose, a minimum one platoon of the CAPF is deployed to guard the strong rooms round the clock. The second tier is of the state armed police and the third of district executive force.”
The CEO said that all contesting candidates can depute their representatives to keep a close watch on the security arrangements of the strong rooms. The political party representatives were allowed to stay outside the outermost parameter in the tents erected for the purpose, which would enable them to view the entry points of the strong rooms.
He said that facilities such as proper shade, drinking water, toilets would be provided to them, besides if there was no direct view of the strong rooms, CCTVs would be arranged at such a location that they can see the strong room doors on CCTV.
As per the schedule of the ECI, the counting of votes of assembly elections recently held in Himachal Pradesh will start at 8 am on December 8 at 68 counting centers all over the state, he said.
A rehearsal for counting will be done for the staff to be deployed for the purpose on 2 or 3 December and another rehearsal will take place on December 7, a day before counting day, said he, adding that the serial numbers of the training EVMs to be used for hand on training, can be conveyed to the candidates.
“The Returning Officers (ROs) would inform the candidates about the total number of counting agents they are entitled to appoint. The counting agents would be required to fill Form-18 and their request to be appointed as counting agent would not be entertained on plain paper,” he said.
The ROs should obtain the list of counting agents in Form-18 in duplicate with their photograph and identity cards from all the contesting candidates by 5 pm till December 4.
The strong rooms would be opened in the presence of ROs, AROs, candidates, election agents and ECI observers after making necessary entries in the log book maintained for the purpose and the entire proceeding will be video-graphed as well, he added.
The CEO said that no candidate or agent would be allowed to take mobile phones, I-Pad, laptops and any other recording device in the counting hall. Elucidating further, he said that the counting agent should be a citizen of India and above 18 years of age.
However, any sitting Union Minister, sitting Member of Parliament, sitting MLA, chairperson of urban local bodies, Mayor of a corporation, chairperson of a municipality, Nagar Panchayat, chairperson of Zila Parishad and block samiti, elected chairperson of national, state and district co-operative institutions, political functionaries appointed as chairperson of government bodies, government pleaders or additional government pleaders or any government servant cannot be appointed as counting agents.
There is no such restriction that only local persons shall be permitted to become counting agents. Apart from this, there is no prohibition in appointing an NRI who is a citizen of India as counting agent and councilors, ward members, sarpanch and other bodies/ heads as counting agents, subject to the condition that they are not provided any security by the government.