Vol. XLIII No. 18 May 05, 2019

TAMIL NADU POLLS: CPI(M) Files Petition in HC Over Breach of Security

V B Ganesan

THE Madras High Court on April 27, has ordered the transfer of Madurai District Collector, an Assistant Returning Officer, Personal Assistant (General) to the Collector and the Assistant Commissioner of Police (Crime) and others involved for the breach of security, on a petition filed by CPI(M) candidate Su Venkatesan.

Su Venkatesan has moved the court after a tahsildar entered a storage room situated adjacent to the strong room where the Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) of Madurai parliamentary constituency were stored. He moved the court on April 20th afternoon seeking a Special Investigation Team to probe into the incident. He has also told the court that upon learning about the breach of security, he rushed to the Madurai Medical College premises where the EVMs are stored under three tier security.

Reportedly, despite staging a dharna at the premises demanding the Returning Officer (Collector) to visit the campus and explain about the lapses in the security over this incident, he never visited the spot and when Su Venkatesan met him at his camp office past midnight, the Collector feigned ignorance about the incident. Except for the suspension of the woman tahsildar, the district administration was insisting that nothing untoward has happened because of this unauthorised entry of the official.

Following the lack of strict action from the District Colletcor, Su Venkatesan filed a petition before Madras High Court making a plea for the constitution of an SIT by the Election Commission to inquire into the incident.

Besides seeking the transfer of the District Collector, the plea also sought to provide three-tier security with CRPF to the counting centre not only in the Madurai parliamentary constituency but in all other constituencies across the state, as well as to appoint a special observer in the rank of an IAS officer for counting of postal ballots in his constituency, after thorough verification of records to find out whether the tahsildar had manipulated any document during her three-hour stay in the room.

During the hearing of the petition on April 27, the ECI informed the court that it had ordered the transfer of District Collector and Assistant Returning Officer of Madurai West Assembly segment.  While accepting the transfer orders of the ECI, the Court also enquired into why disciplinary proceedings were not initiated against the erring officials. It further asked why the PA (General) to the District Collector was not questioned during the ECI enquiry on the incident.

After ordering the transfer of the officials, the Court also ordered the Chief Election Officer to initiate departmental proceedings including criminal proceedings against those officials who were involved and posted the next hearing on April 30.