Criminal charges against cops involved in electoral fraud: CEO tells HC

Criminal charges against cops involved in electoral fraud: CEO tells HC
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Kochi: Chief Election Officer (CEO) of Kerala stated criminal procedures could be taken against cops for electoral malpractices if their complicity is established. CEO Teeka Ram Meena, while apprising the High Court on Friday, also stated that Thiruvananthapuram Crime branch IG is conducting a detailed inquiry into foul play over postal ballots of police personnel.

The CEO's statements came in response to a plea by state opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala seeking an inquiry commission to probe electoral malpractices during the Lok Sabha elections held in the state on April 23.

The CEO also told court that aggrieved parties can challenge election results through a plea. As per the Supreme Court, judiciary cannot intervene in electoral process, he reminded the court.

The Kerala State Election Commission meanwhile sought to quash the plea citing a Supreme Court Constitutional Bench’s directive disallowing any judicial intervention from the time elections are declared and until results are declared.

The electoral watchdog also revealed its inability to issue fresh ballots to police personnel who have not returned from election duty.

They cannot be issued now as it is ultra wires the Constitution, the Election Commision stated during the hearing on the plea.

Explaining the actions taken so far over the alleged electoral fraud involving postal ballots, the CEO cited the likely police moves.

The CEO stated: The DGP’s circular giving nodal officers the right to collect ballot paper applications from police personnel was issued as per Election Commission’s 2014 directive. No complaint from any policemen has been received yet. But the CEO sought a report from the DGP after considering media reports and other complaints on the irregularities.

The DGP replied action will be initiated as per the recommendations on the Intelligence ADGP’s report.

An inquiry by the Crime Branch was initiated as per AGP’s recommendations.

A preliminary inquiry by Intelligence IG is on and the officer has sought 15 more days for a final report, the CEO's statement said.

Missive to DGP

The CEO in a May 8 letter had asked to DGP seek action against cops and their associations likely involved in misusing postal ballots for electoral fraud without waiting for further directives if foul play is established. It also sought action on letters over the issue from Congress legislators Chennithala and Adoor Prakash.

The Intelligence ADGP’s interim report does not address the concerns raised in several complaints. Though aspersions have been cast on the handling of police ballots from several places, this report has probed only three postal votes and a WhatsApp voice message.

Four cops on poll duty in Punjab recalled

Thiruvananthapuram: Four policemen, who are suspected to be part of an electoral fraud using postal ballots of cops in Kerala, have been recalled from election duty in Punjab. The urgent order was issued by Battalion ADGP on Crime Branch IG’s request.

They recalled cops are Arun Mohan, Ratheesh, Rajesh Kumar and Manikkuttan of the India Reserve Battalion (IRB). All four returned yesterday by train even as all the 13 Lok Sabha constituencies in Punjab go to the polls tomorrow in the last phase of the Indian general elections. 

The urgent order was issued by IRB ADGP on the request of Crime Branch IG. 

The four personnel are accused of receiving more than one ballot each by providing false addresses. 

The Chief Election Commissioner (CEO) of Kerala had sought inquiry against the four after Intelligence Chief mentioned their names in his report. Their statements could not be taken since they were on duty in Punjab.

The investigation team had analysed their phone records. More action is expected after their statements are recorded.

The CEO is yet to take an action on DGP’s interim report over the matter. The DGP had sought more time since postal ballots could be used for voting until May 23 when the results of the Lok Sabha election are to be announced. 

The CEO will meanwhile wait for the High Court’s directive for further action.

The Crime Branch has registered a case indicting a policeman from the IRB after his WhatsApp voice message to collect ballots surfaced. It is alleged that police and officers’ association leaders affiliated to CPM collected postal ballots by threat.

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