Days after arrest warrants were issued against three teachers from Navsari district for remaining absent from Election Commission’s electoral roll revision duty, it has come to light that 18 other booth-level officers (BLOs) faced similar action. A majority of these 18 BLOs are school teachers.
Following a report by The Indian Express on September 19 on the action taken against the three teachers from Navsari, the Election Commission of India (ECI) had sought a reply from Gujarat Chief Electoral Officer (CEO).
Arrest warrants were issued against three teachers from Navsari district for failing to turn up for their assigned jobs in the three-day electoral roll revision drive taken up by the ECI for the upcoming general election. Police teams were sent to pick up the three teachers and they were brought to the mamlatdar’s office, on last Tuesday.
Confirming the action taken against 18 BLOs, Gujarat CEO Dr S Murali Krishna said, “A report was sought on September 19 after the Election Commission of India learnt about such an action taken against the BLOs in Navsari district. The office submitted its report to the ECI on the same day. Necessary instructions have been issued to collectors and district election officers (DEOs) to ensure that action against such BLOs is consistent with the Conduct and Discipline Rules framed for Government Employees and only after proper study of legal provision.”
Through the report, it came to light that similar arrest warrants were issued by concerned district administrative officials in five districts — Gir Somnath, Devbhoomi Dwarka, Jamnagar, Dahod and Navsari.
Among these, the highest number of warrants were issued in Khambhaliya constituency of Devbhoomi Dwarka district, where a total of nine warrants were issued against BLOs by the electoral registration officers (ERO) and assistant electoral registration officers (AEROs).
Six warrants were issued from Jamnagar North constituency in Jamnagar district, two from Limkheda in Dahod and one in Somnath from Gir Somnath, all for alleged ‘negligence of duty’.
An official statement issued on September 19 by Gujarat CEO Dr S Murali Krishna stated, “Some BLOs were absent at their respective polling station on 16.9.2018 declared as special campaign day and they were also absent from the training programme for BLOs given by EROs through SATCOM. As such, concerned EROs/AEROs have taken disciplinary actions against such BLOs for negligence of their duty.”
Apart from September 16, September 30 and October 14 are the dates for the special campaign to enrol first-time voters who have completed 18 years of age, and those who want to make corrections in their registered details.
“It has come to the notice of this office that in some cases warrants have been issued against BLOs who were absent. Forthcoming General Elections will be held using electoral roll prepared on the basis of ongoing Electoral Roll Summary Revision Programme. For preparation of updated and error free electoral roll, sincerity of BLOs is necessary. Under these circumstances, action has been taken against BLOs for negligence to their duties with respect to work related to special campaign programme which is of national importance,” the statement read.
However, the CEO maintained that the action was not consistent with the law. “Action (issuing warrants) taken by EROs/AEROs is not consistent with the provision of law framed for Government Employees,” the statement said. Navsari district’s Gandevi taluka Mamlatdar (Taluka Chief officer) had issued arrest warrants against three female teachers and instructed police to arrest them immediately.
Police arrested one of the teachers, Nidhi Bharat Patel, as she was taking a class in Antaliya village of the taluka.
Another police team reached Gadat Primary school in search of teacher Geetaben Patel. However, Geetaben, along with another teacher Manisha Raman Patel from Undach Primary School, had gone to participate in a science fair at Vadsarang village.
At the fair, Gandevi BJP MLA Naresh Patel, stopped police from arresting the teachers. The teachers were asked to visit the mamlatdar office in the evening the same day.