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Lok Sabha elections 2019: Odisha election observer suspended by EC for checking vehicle in PM Modi’s convoy

A Karnataka-cadre Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer has been suspended for checking a vehicle in the convoy of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in breach of the Election Commission’s guidelines.

lok sabha elections Updated: Apr 18, 2019 09:28 IST
Debabrata Mohanty
Debabrata Mohanty
Hindustan Times, Bhubaneswar
Election commission,Lok Sabha elections 2019,election observer suspended
The Election Commission order said Mohsin did not act in conformity with the instructions concerning dignitaries guarded by the Special Protection Group (SPG).(Arabinda Mahapatra / HT Photo)

The Election Commission of India (ECI) has suspended a Karnataka-cadre Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer who was serving as general observer for the Sambalpur Lok Sabha constituency in Odisha for checking a vehicle in the convoy of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in breach of the poll watchdog’s guidelines.

Mohammed Mohsin, a 1996-batch IAS officer, was suspended on Tuesday after he checked the vehicle in Sambalpur, where the PM addressed an election rally. It wasn’t immediately clear who was travelling in the vehicle that was checked. The ECI order, a copy of which was accessed by HT, said Mohsin had not acted in conformity with the ECI’s instructions dated April 10, 2014 and March 22, 2019 concerning those guarded by the Special Protection Group (SPG). The order also said the Sambalpur district collector, who is also the district election officer, and the deputy inspector general of police had also sent a written report confirming that Mohsin’s actions had been contrary to the instructions of the EC and qualified as “dereliction of duty”.

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“Mohammed Mohsin by virtue of being a general observer is on deputation with the ECI and is working under the supervision and control of the commission. Taking into considerations (the materials available), Commission places Mohammed Mohsin under suspension with immediate effect and until further orders,” the ECI order said.

The ECI did not go into the details of the action or what the guidelines for SPG protectees are. Odisha’s chief electoral officer Surendra Kumar, Sambalpur district election officer Subham Saxena and Mohsin did not respond to messages and calls from HT. Meanwhile, Odisha’s ruling BJD on Wednesday lodged a separate complaint with Surendra Kumar demanding action against Union petroleum and natural gas minister Dharmendra Pradhan for preventing government officers from conducting their election duty of checking his helicopter on Monday. “Yesterday, as telecasted by several television channels, it was seen that Pradhan misbehaved and prevented government officers from checking his helicopter and a sealed suitcase which was being done as part of the normal election duty checking,” the BJD complaint said, demanding strict action against Pradhan. Pradhan said that the local police misbehaved during the search. “The local police misbehaved, and I complained. That was it. I complied with the checking and they did not find anything,” he said.

Pradhan added that it was a regular check by the Election Commission and there was nothing unusual about it. “The local police are acting at the behest of the state BJD government and they have attacked BJP workers,” he alleged. Odisha BJP spokesperson Lekhashree Samantasinghar said the attempt to check Pradhan’s helicopter and the vehicle in the PM’s convoy were “vindictive”. Former chief election commissioner SY Quraishi said he believed the rules of the SPG bluebook did not apply once the Model Code of Conduct kicks in. “We were given to understand that during elections, everyone is equal.”

(with inputs from Amrita Madhukalya)

First Published: Apr 17, 2019 23:06 IST

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