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Initiate disciplinary action/prosecution against erring poll officials: HC to EC


Press Trust of India Chennai
Madras High Court Saturday directed the Election Commission to initiate disciplinary action or prosecution against PA (General) to Madurai District Collector and two officials for allowing polling staff to enter a storage room where records of the April 18 Lok Sabha polls to the Madurai constituency are kept.
Besides the PA, the Assistant Commissioner of Police (Crime), who was in charge of election duty that day and police personnel present there reportedly allowed a woman tehsildar and three other polling staff to enter the room.
The court directed the EC to take the action on those involved as pointed out by the Enquiry Officer after it observed that "absolutely no action" was taken against the PA (General), of the Collector, the ACP and the policemen post the incident.
The division bench, comprising Justices S Manikumar and Subramonium Prasad, passed the interim order on the petition filed by Su Venkatesan, the CPI(M) candidate who contested in Madurai Parliamentary Constituency.
According to the petitioner, the tehsildar allegedly trespassed into the documents storage room on April 20 without any authority and remained there for three hours.
The petitioner has submitted that three staff members of Madurai Municipal Corporation had also accompanied her.
Alleging that the unlawful incident would not have occurred without the knowledge of District Collector Natarajan, who is the Returning Officer, Venkatesan had sought an interim direction for appointment of a special observer of the rank of an IAS officer for counting the postal ballots.
Besides, the petitioner also sought three-tier security for the counting centre, transfer of the returning officer and appointment of a SIT.
When the bench was inclined to pass an order on District Collector Natarajan, who is also the Returning Officer (RO) and other officials, ECI's counsel Niranjnan Rajagopalan produced a letter dated April 27 of the EC Secretary.
The letter stated that S Nagarajan would replace Natarajan and Shantha Kumar would be Assistant Returning Officer (ARO) in place of Guru Chandran with immediate effect.
The judges recorded the EC's submission that disciplinary action would be initiated against the erring RO and ARO in response to it's observation on whether the Chief Electoral Officer, Tamil Nadu, was powerless in the matter.
The bench said it was not going into the controversy as to who was empowered to initiate disciplinary action or prosecution against the erring officials and posted the matter for further hearing to April 30.

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First Published: Apr 27 2019 | 11:30 PM IST

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