Karimganj EVM Row: EC raps presiding officer, orders repoll for PS 149 Ratabari in Assam
The vehicle carrying the polling party of PS No 149 Indira MV School of LAC 1 Ratabari (SC) comprising a Presiding Officer and three polling personnel with the polled EVM was allegedly attacked by a mob on the highway leading to Karimganj.
The Election Commission on Friday said that action has been taken against the presiding officer of polling station 149 Ratabari in Assam and ordered repoll of the said PS following the alleged mob attack on a vehicle carrying the polling party with the polled EVM at Karimganj.
Following the incident, the presiding officer (PO) was issued show cause notice for violation of the transport protocol, the EC said in a statement. It said the PO and three other polling officials of have been placed under suspension.
Although the seals of the EVM were found intact, a repoll at polling station No 149- Indira M.V. School of LAC 1 Ratabari (SC) has been decided as added precaution, the EC stated, adding a report has been sought from the Special Observer.
The incident took place Thursday when after the second phase of the state Assembly elections, the vehicle carrying the polling party of PS No 149 Indira MV School of LAC 1 Ratabari (SC) comprising a Presiding Officer and three polling personnel with the polled EVM was allegedly attacked by a mob on the highway leading to Karimganj. The polling party after completion of polls at 6 pm was returning in a convoy escorted by an armed escort led by the Police Sector Officer ABSI Luhit Gohain.
Detailing the incident, the Election Commission explained in a release that about 1300 vehicles were returning on the national highway-8, the only artery road leading to Karimganj from remote areas of the district. It said as the polling party was approaching NilamBazaar, the vehicle carrying the polling party broke down at about 9 pm. Due to the traffic congestion and the prevailing weather condition, the party became detached from its convoy, it added.
The polling party alighted from the vehicle and called the Sector Officer Ajoy Sutradhar on his mobile and informed him, the release stated, adding while the sector officer was arranging for an alternate vehicle, the polling party decided to arrange a vehicle of its own so as to reach the Material Receipt Centre faster since they were in custody of polled EVMs.
The release further stated that at about 9.20 pm, the polling party hailed a passing vehicle and boarded it along with their EVM and other things without checking the ownership of the vehicle bearing the number AS-10B-0022. As reported by the polling party, they moved towards Karimganj and as they reached Kanaishil in Karimganj at about 10 pm, they slowed down due to the traffic congestion. As they slowed down, they were surrounded by a mob of about 50 people which started pelting stones at them. The mob also started abusing them and did not allow the vehicle to pass. When they asked the leader of the mob, he replied that it was the vehicle of Krishnendu Paul who is a contesting candidate of a neighbouring constituency (Patharkandi LAC-2) and he levelled allegations that the EVM was being taken to be tampered with. They alerted the Sector Officer. However, a larger crowd had gathered by then and they were attacked and held hostage by a mob along with the EVM in the vehicle at 9.45 pm alleging that the EVM was being taken to be tampered with, the release stated.
The release stated that on receiving the information about the incident, the DEO Karimganj along with the SP Karimganj rushed to the spot and reached there at 10.20 pm. The antecedents of the vehicle were ascertained and it was found to be registered in the name of Madhumita Paul, wife of contesting candidate, Patharkandi LAC No 2, Krishnendu Paul. On arrival at the spot, the crowd was pulling out the polling party and were about to assault them. The mob had turned violent and had damaged the glass of the vehicle by pelting stone. SP Karimganj sustained minor injuries on his collarbone by the stones being pelted and blank firing had to be resorted to disperse the mob. The first polling officer was found missing in the commotion. The EVM and the remaining polling party were safely escorted from the area and taken into the control of the DEO at 11.20 pm, the release stated.
On examination, the polled EVM comprising BU, CU and VVPAT was found to be sealed and intact without any damage whatsoever, the EC said, adding that all the items have been deposited in the strong room. The first polling officer was missing until the wee hours of Friday and a search operation was being conducted all night, the EC added.