KOCHI: Prosecution proceedings could be initiated against the culprits if an inquiry reveals any malpractice in the handling of postal ballots of the police personnel on election duty, the Election Commission of India (EC) informed the Kerala High Court on Friday. The malpractice could also be questioned through an election petition before the election tribunal after the declaration of the result.
The EC filed the statement in response to a petition filed by Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala seeking a directive to the Election Commission to appoint an independent commission to inquire into the allegation that leaders of the Kerala Police Association had collected postal ballots of officers on election duty and marked votes by proxy in favour of the LDF candidates. The commission also informed the petition filed by Chennithala was not maintainable and it should be dismissed.
The commission submitted that a comprehensive inquiry under the direct supervision of the Inspector General of Police, Crime Branch, Thiruvananthapuram, is progressing regarding the alleged malpractice. The plea seeking to withdraw the ballot papers issued to police officers on election duty and which are yet to be tendered to the returning officer on the ground of reported fraud and to issue a fresh ballot to those police personnel on election duty was squarely barred under Article 329 (b) of the Constitution of India, said the EC.
The commission had suggested a Crime Branch inquiry following the report of the ADGP (intelligence). The commission had sent a letter to the state police chief stating the report was insufficient to clear all the doubts raised from various quarters. Even though there were a number of police personnel who avail postal ballot facility and there were allegations about the irregularities, the report only mentions the voice clip of one police officer and the incident of three postal ballots allegedly being addressed to a single officer. It was not sufficient to restore public confidence in the system that casting of the vote was done without fear.
Following this, the police chief ordered a Crime Branch probe and the investigation team filed a report requesting 15 days more to complete the probe on May 14. The report stated that investigation process would take time until May 23, because many police personnel who have cast their votes or are expected to cast their votes are on duty till the counting day in various parts of the country.