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2017 DHOLKA ASSEMBLY POLLS EC shunts out RO accused of rigging polls to favour BJP

April 15, 2019 06:48 AM


EC shunts out RO accused of rigging polls to favour BJP
Made a respondent by Gujarat HC in a petition challenging victory of cabinet minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama in the 2017 Assembly polls, the EC removed Dhaval Jani from post of prant officer (Dholka) without giving him a posting | TWEETS @NikunjMIRROR

The Election Commission of India, which was made a respondent by Gujarat HC in the 2017 Dholka assembly poll rigging trial, has transferred controversial state revenue service officer Dhaval Jani, the returning officer for the constituency.

Jani is accused of ‘assisting’ senior-most cabinet minister in Rupani government, Bhupendrasinh Chudasama, who won by a margin of 327 votes against Cong candidate Ashwin Rathod. The HC had found discrepancies in the process of re-verification and recounting of postal ballots and use of mobile phone in counting room among other violations of ECI rule.

Sources said, the transfer is not a routine one as Jani, who was removed from post of prant officer Dholka on Sunday, has not been given a new posting yet.

The order was issued by the Election Commission of India in the wake of Gujarat HC’s findings that there were discrepancies in the process of re-verification and recounting of postal ballots, violation of ECI rules — of finishing the counting of postal ballot before the second last round of EVMs, refusal to provide videography record of the counting process to the petitioner and use of mobile phone in the counting room. Jani had reportedly admitted to violating all of these mandatory rules.

The ECI is likely to submit the report on removal of Jani from the post to HC on April 16 when the case will come up for hearing. Jani was not assigned any election duty looking to his past conduct. Jani has been replaced by Devbhumi Dwarka’s Deputy DEO RM Jalandhara who has been appointed as the Assistant Returning Officer.

Confirming the development, Ahmedabad District Collector Vikrant Pandey said, “Dhaval Jani has been removed from the existing post on Sunday and put on ‘posting in waiting’ by an order issued by the Election Commission of India. This was not the routine transfer.”

Pandey further said, “He has not been assigned any election duty and his successor RM Jalandhara has been appointed the Assistant Returning Officer (ARO).” Jani remained unavailable for comment.

Congress leader Ashwin Rathod, who had lost the Dholka assembly polls against Chudasama and filed the election petition challenging the latter’s victory, had written a letter to the ECI, seeking to remove Jani.

“I am happy that the ECI took the right step and remove Jani from the post,” Rathod told Mirror. He said, “I wrote the letter to the EC before the announcement of parliamentary election and now he has been removed from the post.”

Rathod is determined to fight not only against Chudasama but also Jani also as the latter was accused of ‘helping’ the former win by manipulation of votes.

“The ECI took the action at the right time. I was going to file a petition before the Gujarat High Court, seeking transfer of Jani to ensure free and fair Lok Sabha election.” It is to be noted that Dholka assembly constituency falls under the Kheda parliamentary seat where BJP’s Devusinh Chauhan is contesting for the second time while Congress had fielded Bimal Shah. Chauhan was earlier in the Congress and joined BJP before 2014 while Shah, a former transport minister in BJP leader Keshubhai Patel’s cabinet, defected to Congress this year. The HC, on April 2, prima facie found seven ‘glaring’ violations in the election guidelines which amounts to corrupt practices. In its order, it categorically asked the Election Commission of India, the ECI’s observer, senior IAS officer of Rajasthan cadre Mrs Vinita Bohra and Returning Officer Dhaval Jani to join the ongoing case as “respondents”. The HC also suggested that EC may take ‘corrective’ and ‘preventive’ measures if it is desirous of doing so against Jani and Bohra. The hearing of the plea is scheduled for April 16 when the EC is likely to submit a reply on its action.

In his order, Justice Paresh Upadhya had outlined violations of guidelines or alleged corrupt practices. The violations included refusal of mandatory re-verification of counting of postal ballots, discrepancies in timing of commencement of vote counting (of postal ballots and EVMs), keeping mobile phone by the RO, mode of declaration of the final result, satisfaction certificate issued by the observer (before declaration of final result) and videography of the counting room (the entire record was not submitted to the court).

Regarding making ECI as the party respondent, the court said, “Usually the ECI is not made party in the election petitions but looking at the glaring facts that have emerged in the case, it has been ordered to join in as the party respondent (to express its view about the violations). This order shall be communicated to ECI to take corrective and preventive measures though the court has not come to any opinion or arrived at any judgment

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