The local police today booked Punjab Finance Minister and Congress candidate for Amritsar Lok Sabha seat Surinder Singla under the charges of assaulting one of the polling staff members on duty.
A case against Singla has been registered Under Section 332/353 and 186 IPC. The initial two sections imposed against Singla are non-bailable for which he could be imprisoned up to maximum period of three years and fined if charges proved to be true.
Singla invited trouble on visiting booth number 26 of the Majitha segment. Singla reportedly pointed out as why the Assistant Presiding Officer APO Santokh Singh Dhaliwal was helping an old lady Surjit Kaur (78) out in casting her vote.
According to eyewitness accounts, Dhaliwal humbly told Singla that on the request of an aged and illiterate voter, he was just guiding her in casting the vote through electronic voting machine.
Finding Surjit Kaur probably an SAD–BJP supporter, an infuriated Singla allegedly landed a slap on the cheek of Dhaliwal. “He raised his hand to slap me again, but I stopped it and the entire staff on poll duty also sided with me. As the polling staff and Surjit Kaur started criticising the action of Singla, he left the polling booth in a huff,” said Dhaliwal.
Dhaliwal, who was allegedly slapped by Singla approaches 60 and his retirement as Special Assistant, State Bank of Patiala, is due in April this year.
Following the incident the polling in this booth remained suspended for nearly 15 minutes. Soon Singla’s rival and BJP candidate Navjot Singh Sidhu and the SAD candidate for Majitha assembly segment Bikram Singh Majithia rushed to the spot and brought the incident to the notice of poll observer MP Singh and Returning Officer-cum-SDM (Amritsar-1) Vimal Setia.
On the intervention of Singh and Setia the Majitha police district SP(Headquarters) Paramjit Singh Khaira visited the polling booth and recorded the statement of Dhaliwal and Presiding Officer Jeevan Jyoti Mohindru and other staff members on the basis of which case was registered against Singla.
Khaira said that SI Tarsem Datt had been deputed to investigate into the matter to ensure further appropriate action as per law. On the basis of written statement by Dhaliwal and duly corroborated by polling staff members available in the booth, Singla has been accused of assault or use of criminal force to deter a public servant from discharging his duty.
A shattered Dhaliwal told Hindustan Times that he never faced such a humiliation in past. He said that cops and paramilitary troops available on the site, were mute spectators as Singla assaulted him without reason.
When contacted Singla said that Dhaliwal was indulging in extra-constitutional activities and was doing the things what he was not supposed to do. “I objected his action and on my recommendation he along with Presiding Officer were replaced immediately. Later on they cooked up the false story against me to avoid action,” he said adding that there was not even an iota of truth into allegations.
Observer MP Singh, however, said that there was nothing objectionable if Dhaliwal was guiding the old lady in the process of pressing the EVM button. Singh said that the polling staff was instantly replaced to ensure uninterrupted voting.