In its first such decision on Rajya Sabha elections, the Election Commission of India (EC) on Wednesday indicted Haryana Assembly secretary R K Nandal for the alleged “ink row” that led to rejection of 12 ballot papers, paving the way for victory of BJP-backed Independent candidate Subhash Chandra.
The EC recommended disciplinary action against Nandal, who was returning officer for the election held in June this year, for concealment of facts and negligence while ordering lodging of an FIR against “unknown persons” following controversies on the polling day.
The Commission recommended that Haryana’s chief electoral officer Ankur Gupta should get a criminal case registered under IPC and Representation of People’s Act to unearth the alleged “criminal conspiracy”.
A row had begun after votes of 12 MLAs of Congress and its allies were declared invalid, as they were marked with a pen other than the sketch pen officially kept for the voting process. The Congress alleged foul play by the BJP, as the invalid ballots led to the defeat of Supreme Court advocate R K Anand, the Independent candidate backed by the Congress and the INLD.
In a report sent to the state CEO on June 30, Nandal had stated that on polling day, BJP MLA Subhash Barala “came out of the voting compartment with a ball pen in his hand, saying that one pen was lying in the voting compartment and another pen (was) tied with thread”. This pen was removed and the elector was asked to mark his vote with the violet sketch pen tied with a string, Nandal’s report stated.
He said that after analysing recordings of the video he found that the MLA who came at number seven, BJP’s Rohilla Rewri, “inadvertently” took a pen inside the poll booth. In the order of voting, she was followed by the BJP’s Kavita Jain and Chief Minister M L Khattar, before Barala “came and noticed this pen, which was removed from the voting compartment”.
Referring to this report from Nandal, the EC remarked, “The returning officer did not bring this incident to EC’s notice either in the poll day report… or at the time of seeking permission for counting. This amounts to concealment of material facts from ECI…this is a serious case of lack of supervisory control and negligence…”
Nandal claimed that whatever he did was “as per rules”.
After his defeat, R K Anand had filed an election petition in Punjab and Haryana High Court, where the next hearing is scheduled for October 6.
Anand said that in his complaint he had mentioned the same sections of Representation of People’s Act and IPC that the EC has now recommended. “The EC should have set aside this election, but they have gone soft. We will raise all these points in the next hearing of my election petition,” he said.
Subhash Chandra was not available for comment.