The State Election Commission (SEC), Odisha, Wednesday imposed a ban on the sale and distribution of liquor 48 hours before the commencement of the panchayat elections. The three-tier panchayat poll in the coastal state will be held in five phases on February 16, 18, 20, 22, and 24.
SEC secretary RN Sahoo in a letter to the principal secretary, excise department, said to ensure smooth conduct of the panchayat elections, liquor cannot be served at any hotel or restaurant in the region where polling will take place.
The Commission asked the officials concerned to take strict action against anyone who violates the rule. The ban on liquor will come into force two days before polling during all five phases of the election. It will also continue during the voting day.
The SEC has also imposed restrictions on carrying licensed firearms or any type of weapons near polling booths during voting. The Commission directed the state government to declare the day of polling as a paid holiday for government and private employees and grant Special Casual Leave for a maximum period of three days to employees staying far away from their voting region to enable them to exercise their franchise.
Meanwhile, with several complaints alleging violation of the Model Code of Conduct reaching the SEC, Commissioner of the poll panel A P Padhi formed a Screening Committee headed by Chief Secretary SC Mahapatra to examine them. After going through the complaints, the committee will send them to the SEC for necessary action.
"No complaint can be forwarded to the Commission directly without the prior approval of the Screening Committee," he said. Meanwhile, over 50,000 candidates filed their nominations for the panchayat elections on Wednesday. The counting of votes will be held on February 26, 27, and 28.
With PTI Inputs