With the Election Commission likely to announce a repoll in at least 130 booths of the West Tripura constituency, suspension orders have been issued to two micro observers and three presiding officers for lapses ranging from “abetting booth capturing” on April 11 and “conniving to further the prospects” of certain candidates.
In a communication dated April 29, the Assistant Returning Officer (Sepahijala district) informed the Returning Officer of the West Tripura constituency, Sandeep Mahatme, about the development.
It states that during scrutiny of documents and video recordings, “manifestations of some persons directly vitiating the poll process were predominantly apparent from the poll day recorded video footage.”
It adds that the concerned officers “did not report the incident of poll interruption or obstruction or poll vitiation which can be termed as willful negligence of election duties.”
They have also been found “aiding or conniving in such activities resulting in the furtherance of the prospects of the election of a particular candidate and which is defined as booth capturing under Section 135A of the Representation of People Act, 1951.”
The officials have been placed on immediate suspension under Section 13 CC of the RP Act, 1950 and Section 28 A of the RP Act, 2951 for also being involved in “abetting booth capturing and promoting corrupt practices in election.”
As per guidelines laid down by the commission, poll officials are supposed to bring instances of violations immediately to the notice of the general observers.
In a previous report to the EC, Mahatme had detailed violations across seven Assembly segments of the constituency, ranging from “intimidating” voters to cast votes in favour of a particular candidate to polling agents casting votes of voters “multiple times”.
Another report, also signed by Mahatme, stated that video recording norms were flouted in as many as 433 out of 1679 polling stations in the west Tripura constituency, with the irregularities ranging from non-installation of cameras, their abrupt removals and keeping lenses covered.
The “consolidated report prepared on basis of the statement of the presiding officers and micro observers regarding installation of web cameras in the polling station and other irregularities” states that out of the 433 stations where duration of video clips were “less than nine hours/poll vitiated”, 65 have added allegations of irregularities reported against them by presiding officers and micro-observers.
The Commission had subsequently deferred polling for East Tripura seat from April 18 to April 23. A special observer was tasked with overseeing voting in East Tripura and submit a report on complaints of alleged rigging, which he did recently. Now, a call is likely to be taken on a repoll.
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