THE CENTRAL Administrative Tribunal (CAT) Thursday stayed the Election Commission’s move to suspend an IAS officer who, as a poll observer, had searched the helicopter of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Odisha’s Sambalpur during a campaign rally last week.
Shortly after the CAT passed the interim order, the EC revoked Mohammed Mohsin’s suspension, but barred him from election duty and recommended disciplinary action against him to the Karnataka government. The poll panel, simultaneously, also warned the District Election Officer (DEO) of Sambalpur for his involvement in the helicopter search.
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Speaking to The Indian Express on the CAT order, Mohsin, a 1996-batch IAS officer from the Karnataka cadre, said: “I have gone strictly by the rules. I have not done anything wrong. Whatever are the rules will have to be followed”. Asked if he feared retribution for his action, he said: “I have an unblemished record in my 22 years of service. I have always followed what the law says.”
The revocation of Mohsin’s suspension, the ban on poll duty and the recommendation for disciplinary action against him, the EC order states, is based on the findings of a 32-page report submitted by Deputy Election Commissioner Dharmendra Sharma.
Sharma is learnt to have found that Mohsin had violated instructions regarding SPG protectees. “The officer (Sharma) concerned spoke to all parties involved, including the suspended officer, and it was found that he (Mohsin) went out of his way to search (the helicopter), when the instructions clearly provide exemption,” said an EC official.
The EC had suspended Mohsin last week stating that he “had not acted in conformity” with instructions on SPG protectees, which includes the Prime Minister. He had been accused of “insubordination and dereliction of duty”. Opposition parties had opposed the order saying the officer had not broken any rule.
Putting on hold the suspension, the Bengaluru bench of CAT said “it cannot be said that SPG Protectees are eligible for anything and everything” and that “election officials have checked private vehicles of (Karnataka) Chief Minister Shri Kumaraswamy more than once and no action followed… the Chief Minister of Odisha’s vehicles were also checked.”
The Tribunal’s order stated: “There was (a) news report that heavy packages were taken away from the Hon’ble Prime Minister’s cavalcade into another vehicle and sped away in another vehicle in… Karnataka.” The Tribunal has also sought replies from the EC within three weeks.
Reacting to the development, a senior EC official said, “The stay order has been passed without hearing the Commission’s side. Since it has been now sought, we will present our version to them.”