Facing the Election Commission heat over dual votes, Punjab local bodies minister Anil Joshi has a more serious scandal in his voter enrollment, one that makes his very election as an MLA in 2012 a nullity.
The inquiry report of the commissioner, Jalandhar division, to the Election Commission describes how the "forging of votes" saga unfolds. Joshi and family became voters in two constituencies of Amritsar during the last intensive revision of electoral rolls in 2006. His vote (serial number 946) in Amritsar north (AC-16) was deleted in the supplement electoral rolls of 2007 as he was not residing there.
He again made his vote (1546) in the supplement rolls, declaring self a resident of 3, Golden Avenue, Panjpeer, Amritsar, to file his nomination papers and was elected an MLA for the first time in 2007. Since the Panjpeer area became part of the Amritsar east constituency after delimitation in 2008, Joshi got his vote deleted from that year's rolls, but in 2012, filed his nomination as voter number 498 in Amritsar north and was declared winner.
His voter number became 498 over subsequent electoral-rolls revisions since the intensive work of 2006 when votes 749 to 757 containing names of Joshi and his family were entered through overwriting in a different hand than the enumerator's in booth 123 of Amritsar west, which after delimitation had come into Amritsar north.
The names overwritten were of Joshi (voter number 752) and seven members of his family. Number 752 became 749 in the 2007 electoral rolls, 752 in 2008, 708 in 2009, 652 in 2010, 681 in 2011, and 498 in the 2012 electoral rolls, the one on which Joshi filed his nomination.
After a complaint, the Election Commission of India marked an inquiry to the Punjab chief electoral officer. The commissioner, Jalandhar division, R Ventak Ratnam, in his inquiry report dated December 26, 2013, submitted to the CEO has stated: "The manuscript pertaining to booth 123 has been tampered. The enumerator who did the intensive revision has stated that neither he has written the names of Joshi and family nor does his handwriting match the overwriting."
The report further says: "Booth numbers 121 to 130 were allocated to one Pradeep Kumar, a laboratory assistant from DIPRT office, Amritsar, for proofreading. He was summoned through a notice but the office concerned replied that he had passed away in October 2010."
What adds to the doubt is the missing record of the intensive revision of the Amritsar (north) electoral rolls in 2006 before delimitation. After questioning the officials concerned, the commissioner, Jalandhar division, has stated in his report that the record was never transferred from the previous electoral registration officer (ERO).
"It was lost, misplaced and destroyed in the office of the Amritsar deputy commissioner on his orders to destroy old record, though election rules require it to be preserved until one year after the completion of the next intensive revision," says the report.
CEO mum on Joshi, to act against officers
Punjab CEO VK Singh, when contacted, said voter numbers 749 to 757 were entered through overwriting, which only the enumerator concerned or his seniors had the authority to allow. "Since the enumerator has denied entering the names, we are going to take action against the officers responsible," he said.
On whether the election of Joshi stands void, as he is the direct beneficiary of this forging of votes, Singh said since Joshi's names was on the printed list and the original records of the 2006 intensive revision of electoral rolls had gone missing, the election could not be challenged.
EC: Admn hiding info, destroying evidence
The Election Commission of India wrote to the Punjab CEO on January 27 that since names had not been added by filing mandatory form 6, it itself was a reason for doubt. "The Punjab CEO has stated that the names were added during door-to-door verification by booth-level officer (BLO) but the BLO record is lost or destroyed. It is obvious that the local administration in Punjab is trying to help minister Anil Joshi by withholding information and destroying evidence," says the EC's letter.