A day after Narmada District Election Officer (DEO) served a showcause notice to the zonal officer of Dediapada Assembly constituency and five others for allegedly “forgetting” to return a VVPAT machine after the first phase of polls on December 9, the six officers submitted their explanation on Tuesday.
DEO R S Ninama told The Indian Express that they accepted that it was a “mistake due to oversight”.
“The officers have said that it was a mistake. We have submitted our report to the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of Gujarat, stating that the VVPAT machine was submitted later than the designated time. We are awaiting instructions from the CEO to initiate any further action if needed,” Ninama said, however, maintaining that the machine was a ‘reserved’ one and not used in the actual polling process.
The DEO’s notice had come a day after the machine was returned on Sunday by a jeep driver on election duty.
Workers of Bhartiya Tribal Party, belonging to former JDU leader Chhotu Vasava’s son Mahesh, also accompanied the driver to Rajpipla. Zonal officer Kaushik Kathad had allegedly forgot the ‘reserve’ VVPAT machine, allotted to polling booth number 17, in the vehicle. Rest of the Electronic Voting Machines and VVPAT machines were duly returned to the strong room in Rajpipla and sealed.
After the group presented the “misplaced” machine, a surprised Ninama ordered a probe and on Monday six officers were served notices to explain the lapse.
An election official said it was surprising none of the officers, responsible for collecting the machines, and those in charge of the strong room realised that a VVPAT machine was missing. “They did not raise an alarm, so it is also a lapse on part of those who overlooked Kathad’s mistake,” he said.
A zonal officer is responsible for about eight to 10 polling stations, apart from preparing a report of the inventories received by each booth.