Vikarabad Collector and District Election Officer (DEO) Omar Jalil was placed under suspension on orders of the Election Commission of India for opening Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trails (VVPATs) used in the election for Vikarabad Assembly constituency whose result was challenged in High Court by the losing Congress candidate.
Based on the findings of the Chief Electoral Officer of Telangana five days ago, the EC in its order to Chief Secretary S.K. Joshi on Friday noted that the Collector had unauthorisedly opened the strong room having the EVMs and VVPATs and cleared the poll data of three control units of the EVMs.The commission rules mandate that if any election petition was filed in High Court, the EVMs used at all polling stations in the said constituency will continue to be kept in the safe custody of the DEO till such time the petition was disposed of. But, the DEO pleaded innocence about the court case and that he did not delete the data intentionally in his explanation to the EC, sources said.
The EC also observed in its letter to the Chief Secretary that clearing of poll data from some EVMs was a clear and ‘egregious’ violation of the extant rules and instructions of the commission. Through his reckless and irresponsible action, he exposed the credibility and integrity of the election process. Therefore, the EC ordered his immediate suspension and disciplinary proceedings for a major penalty. The suspension order must be issued to Mr. Jaleel by 5 PM today.
The Congress candidate from the constituency Gaddam Prasad Kumar had represented to the EC through the CEO on February 2 that he had lost the election from Vikarabad by a margin of only 2,993 votes due to malpractices by the winning candidate of TRS and misconduct of election officials. Hence, he filed a case in High Court.
Even as the case was pending in court, the Collector all of a sudden on February 1 announced opening of EVMs to reformat them for use in Parliament elections. The contesting candidates were not informed of the decision but their local leaders were asked to be at the strong room in the district headquarters town. The strong room was opened by the Collector despite opposition from Mr. Prasad Kumar’s agent Rajasekhar Reddy. The representatives of all parties were asked to wait outside the room and later turned away.
After opening seals of 122 EVMs till 4 p.m., the Collector sent for Mr. Rajasekhar Reddy and informed him that he had come to know about the court case and therefore, he was sealing the strong room again.