Madurai witnessed protests on Saturday night following reports of a major security breach at the Madurai Medical College campus, where a woman tehsildar illegally entered a sealed room where voting machines were kept and spent about three and a half hours with her aides before taking out documents.
After all major opposition party candidates and cadres gathered outside the compound seeking an immediate explanation on the incident, the district collector and the officer in charge of elections, S Natarajan, ordered an inquiry and suspended the woman officer, Sambooranam. Read in Tamil
At around 7.30 pm, Su Venkatesan, CPM candidate of Madurai Lok Sabha constituency and others filed a petition before the collector citing an illegal entry of the woman officer. As there was a long delay in response from the district administration and the state Election Commissioner, protests erupted around 9 pm. There were no response from authorities for hours inspite of a developing law and order situation.
As the crowd was swelling up outside the building where voting machines were kept, police also was clueless as it was slowly leading to a law and order situation.
“What angered opposition candidates and people was the long delay in a response from the collector’s office despite having evidence, including CCTV footage, of the major security breach. The complainants also cited evidence that the officer had taken out some documents from the building and taken photocopies outside. It had taken four hours for the district administration to finally reply,” a senior police officer, who was at the spot, said.
While it is clear that no unusual entry of an officer into a sealed room can happen without the consent of collector Natarajan, he briefed the media about the situation past midnight admitting that there were flaws. “We have ordered an inquiry, I have to look into the reasons,” he said when asked about how an official could enter the sealed room without his permission.
When asked about why the room was not sealed, he said: “All rooms were to be sealed, looks like they have missed this room alone. I have ordered to seal all rooms now.” To repeated questions about the fear of rigging or any goof-up to the voting machines, collector Natarajan said the room where voting machines were kept are safe and it was sealed.
Later, reportedly following an inquiry, Thasildhar Sambooranam, the woman who allegedly entered the sensitive area and spent more than three hours inside, has been suspended for pending investigation.
The identity of the two people who accompanied her inside the room remains unknown.
A senior poll official in Chennai said they may be briefing about the situation in detail by noon.