Leh District Election Officer and Deputy Commissioner Avny Lavasa on Friday requested the Leh-based General Officer Commanding of 14 Corps to sensitise all commanding officers to maintain the sanctity of the election process.
In a letter dated May 10, she said that a complaint was received from a candidate for the 4-Ladakh Parliamentary constituency about “malpractices on part of various commanding officers of the Indian Army in the electronic postal ballot system. It is alleged that the commanding officers are telephonically asking the jawans for their voting preference rather than supplying to them the ballot paper for casting his vote.”
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Pointing out that “this is a gross violation of secrecy of voting and a malpractice that has the potential to invite strict legal action”, she wrote that “it is requested that all the concerned officers may be sensitised about the issue and sanctity of election process maintained”.
Srinagar-based Defence Ministry spokesperson Colonel Rajesh Kalia said that some election candidates appear to have complained about the postal ballot process for service personnel. Pointing out that no specific instances had been mentioned in the complaints, he said that “preliminary investigations indicate that the complaints are unfounded and appears to have been made to tarnish the image of Army”.
“In depth investigation is on to ascertain the details in the most impartial manner,” he said. “Army remains apolitical and we hold this core value in letter and spirit.”
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A statement issued from the office of District Election Officer said that complaints were received from Sajjad Hussain and Asgar Ali Karbalai, both independent candidates. However, “no specific instances have been mentioned in the complaints,” it said, adding that these were brought to the notice of Army authorities.
Copies of Lavasa’s letter were marked to the state’s Chief Electoral Officer Shaleen Kabra, Leh SSP Sargun Shukla, Commanding Officer, LSRC 56 APO, besides all candidates in Ladakh parliamentary constituency.
Karbalai, a candidate from Ladakh who had complained about the issue to District Election Officer Leh on Thursday, told The Indian Express, “We received complaints from different areas saying the company commanders of the Army are teleponically contacting jawans and asking their voting preferences… it is against the rules and is being done to favour a particular party as was done in 2014.”
Lavasa later told The Indian Express that “it is not a complaint, but the letter is only to sensitive them (Army) as a precaution”.