IN AN unusual request, the Delhi Police sought the digital electoral database of three districts in connection with its investigation into the Northeast Delhi riots earlier this year, but did not pursue the matter after the Election Commission (EC) denied access and offered physical inspection of voters’ list instead, The Indian Express has learnt.
According to a letter released by activist Saket Gokhale on Monday, the Delhi Police sought the database in March to match the photographs of voters in Shahdara, North-East and East Delhi districts with the “photographs of culprits captured through CCTV and other video footage” available with the officers investigating the riots.
The Delhi Police had approached the state Chief Electoral Officer, and the Commissioner Of Police, S N Shrivastava, had also written directly to the poll panel in the first week of March.
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Police sources said a similar request was also sent to the transport department, which shared photographs from driving licences with the investigators.
Sources said the EC, however, denied access to its digital voter database, in accordance with its current policy. “The Delhi Police wanted to check our database to verify their inputs and information. If an agency wants us to cooperate in an investigation, we cannot be seen to be obstructing it. But it was ensured that we didn’t deviate from our established stand on sharing our database with the police. Only a physical inspection was permitted. Copies (of the electoral roll) were not allowed to be shared,” said a source in the poll panel.
After the EC’s clarification on the matter to the Delhi Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), the police did not pursue the matter further. According to sources, the Delhi Police department was interested in procuring a soft copy of the electoral roll as it wanted to use a software to match the faces digitally to its list of riot suspects.
Since the EC’s letter only suggested that the police be allowed to view the list in the office, the process of digital matching through any software would not have been possible and, therefore, the police did not follow it up, sources said. As a result, the list was not showed to them, sources said.
On Monday evening, the EC issued a press statement saying that it had not, in any way, deviated from its original guidelines of 2008 and clarificatory orders of 2020 on sharing of electoral roll and EPIC database with various government departments.
“It also needs to be stated that as far as criminal investigations by regulatory departments/ enforcement agencies is concerned, it is under their own extant Acts, Rules and guidelines, which in any case can be challenged in the Hon’ble Courts of law. In fact, the entire super structure of criminal justice system is erected on this. It is only when the Model Code of Conduct is enforced that Election Commission invariably takes note of any such event(s)/ incident(s), which have the potential of disturbing and/ or disrupting the smooth conduct of electoral process and ECI does not interfere in the day to day functioning of the regulatory departments/enforcement agencies,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, police sources said the photographs from driving licences, sent by the transport department, were forwarded to the Crime Records Office (CRO), which ran them through a software to match them with the photographs of suspects. In case of a match, police sought details of the individual for further investigations, an officer said.
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