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EC orders re poll inf a rid a bad booth, presiding officer held

May 14, 2019 06:05 AM


EC orders re poll inf a rid a bad booth, presiding officer held
Polling agent allegedly voted on electors’ behalf while familiarising them with EVM
From page 01 DELHI/GURUGRAM: After a video that showed a polling booth agent influencing voters in a booth in Faridabad went viral on social media, the Election Commission has transferred the returning officer and ordered a repoll.

■ The poll body has ordered a repoll on May 19.
The presiding officer of the booth was also arrested for dereliction of duty. An FIR was filed in the matter, and a micro observer, too, barred from poll duty for three years.

“On enquiry by the Observer, the complaint was found to be true. Commission has, therefore, ordered a fresh poll at this polling station on 19th of May 2019,” the EC’S order noted. The Commission has now replaced district election officer Atul Kumar with IAS officer Ashok Kumar Garg, whom the poll panel said, has been “directed to join at Faridabad by forenoon tomorrow (Tuesday)”.

Earlier in the day, Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa said on Twitter that the polling officer has been arrested.

“DEO Faridabad reported that the observer, Sanjay Kumar, investigated the matter. The person in the video is the polling agent, who was arrested in the afternoon. FIR is lodged. Report of observer will be examined by ECI [sic],” Lavasa tweeted.

A polling agent was arrested on Sunday for allegedly trying to influence voters at the booth in Asaoti village in Palwal. Both the polling agent and presiding officer were presented before a magistrate and released on bail.

A video of the incident had gone viral on social media.

“The presiding officer, Amit Atri, has been placed under suspension for the dereliction of duty and criminal action is also being initiated against him. The micro observer, Sonal Gulati, had not reported the incident correctly, for which the commission has barred her from any election-related work for three years,” the EC’S order read.

Amit Atri, the presiding officer of booth 88 in Asaoti village that falls under Prithla constituency, had earlier filed a police complaint on Sunday against polling agent Giriraj Singh for influencing voters.

“While he was trying to cast a vote, somebody recorded a video, which went viral. During this time, a crowd of voters gathered, and Giriraj managed to escape,” Atri’s complaint stated.

Based on the complaint and a preliminary investigation, an FIR was registered against Singh, under sections 171C (undue influence at elections) and 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), and Section 135 of the Representation of People Act, 1951, and 1988.

Atri’s arrest was made after the assistant returning officer (ARO) Bharat Bhushan Gogia conducted an inquiry and wrote to superintendent of police (SP), Palwal, to take action against Atri.

In the letter, Gogia wrote that the conduct of the presiding officer Atri was suspicious.

“It has been found that the conduct and the behaviour of presiding officer Amit Atri is suspicious and encouraged malpractices, which is dereliction and guilty of breach of his official duty as per Section 134 of Representation of People Act 1951,” the letter undersigned by the ARO stated.

The ARO also directed the SP to file an FIR against the presiding officer and take necessary action.

“As per the video, we had initiated an inquiry against the officials managing the booth. Suitable action against the polling officials on duty has been taken,” Gogia said.

Kuldeep Singh, station house officer, Sadar Palwal, said Atri had also been found guilty, after an investigation.

“Giriraj, a BJP polling agent, was arrested Asaoti in the later hours of Sunday after a complaint was filed. He had left the polling booth much earlier. We also went through the videos of the incident that we had received on Whatsapp. The presiding officer was also arrested on Sunday after he was found guilty for not taking action,” Singh said.

Kuldeep Singh also said the police had no role to play in the events that transpired inside the polling booth. “Police officers on duty were standing outside the booth. Nothing happened outside. Whatever transpired took place inside the booth,” he said.

The BJP in Haryana, however, did not confirm if the polling agent was a party worker.

“If the election commission has found the need for repolling at a booth for any reason then BJP welcomes this decision. We respect the independence of our constitutional bodies and the repoll will give a chance to the party to get even more votes. I am not aware of the exact details of the incident or persons involved yet,” said Jawahar Yadav, state spokesperson BJP, Haryana.


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