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Nagaland: State Election Commission challenges ENPO’s abstention from ULB polls, issues show cause notice

Nagaland: State Election Commission challenges ENPO’s abstention from ULB polls, issues show cause notice

The Nagaland State Election Commission has issued a show cause notice to the Eastern Nagaland People's Organization for its decision to abstain from the upcoming Urban Local Body elections. The Commission has warned of potential legal consequences for collective abstention.

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The State Election Commission, Nagaland announced the 'Election Programme' for the conduct of general election to 3 municipal councils and 36 town councils in the state vide Notification no. SEC/MTC ELE-1/2024/23 dated April 29, 2024.

In a press statement that appeared on May 16, the Eastern Nagaland People's Organization [ENPO] made public their stand to collectively abstain from participating in the ULB elections, with the letter thereof [NO.ENPO/GEN/SEC.NL/O1 dated May 15, 2024] addressed to the State Election Commission which was received on May 16.

The Commission vide a Press Release [NO.SEC/MTC ELE-7/2024/75 dated 17th May 2024] with a copy endorsed to the ENPO stated the vital facets of the conduct of such elections as the Municipal / Town Council election and why the decision to vote or not to vote should be left to the conscience and freedom of the individual voter concerned without being subject to some collective stance.

Meanwhile, they also referred to the Notice of Contempt served on several entities in the state by the Supreme Court of India with potential legal ramifications entailing the action of such collective abstention under the umbrella and influence of any organisation.

On May 31 again, the ENPO vide a press statement that appeared in the local papers publicly declared its stand of collective abstention from participation in the ULB elections.

The Commission stated that public declaration of abstention made through an organisation not only goes against the basic tenets of Universal Adult Franchise and the constitutional and inviolable rights of absolute freedom of conscience and choice in electoral participation that every eligible citizen is entitled to but it also amounts to exerting undue influence that should otherwise not be used either directly or indirectly in connection with the free exercise of electoral participation.

“As per the IA No. 69269 of 2023 in Civil Appeal No. 3607 of 2016 consequent upon the Notice of Contempt served on you, among others, by the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India, you, as the President of the ENPO, and as a Respondent to the Notice of Contempt, are under legal obligation to comply with the orders of the Supreme Court on ensuring a free, fair and undisturbed electoral environment and to refrain from any action that influences or tends to influence, that interferes or tends to interfere with the free exercise of franchise and of electoral participation of eligible citizens residing in the Eastern Nagaland region,” the Commission also stated.

The repeated public declaration made through the instrument of the organisation, which is essentially a pressure group and unrelated to the constitutional privilege of an electorate or an elector, is deemed to be an attempt to interfere with and to infringe on the individual rights of the electorate to freely and without fear or undue pressure participate in the electoral process on the basis of Adult Franchise, and also deemed to be an interference with the superintendence, direction and control of the conduct of all municipality elections vested in the State Election Commission (SEC), Nagaland, stated the ESC.

The SEC asserted that Sub-section (1) of Section 171 C of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 states that, "Whoever voluntarily interferes or attempts to interfere with the free exercise of any electoral right commits the offence of undue influence at an election."

It further stated that the President of the ENPO has superintendence over its organisation and over the Eastern Nagaland Public Emergency Control Room with its Headquarters in Tuensang district, Nagaland.

Therefore, the Commission directed the ENPO to show cause to the SEC why action as per sub-section (1) of Section 171 C of the aforesaid Code should not be initiated and said that the show-cause should be replied to the undersigned without delay.

Edited By: Avantika
Published On: Jun 01, 2024