Chandigarh: With the Haryana police, on the instructions of Election Commission of India, finally registering an FIR on the complaint of senior lawyer R.K. Anand against the returning officer for allowing the use of an unauthorised pen for voting for the Rajya Sabha election, the focus has now shifted back to the high court to see if it would restore the votes of the 12 members which were rejected.
Anand, a former Rajya Sabha MP who had contested the election as an independent candidate with the support of the Indian National Lok Dal, had lost the poll to Subhash Chandra of the BJP after 12 votes were rejected because of the use of an “unauthorised pen”. Talking to The Wire, he said that the FIR has been registered and the decision of the high court on restoring the rejected votes was awaited. “There is no question of countermanding of the election. The only thing is that the cancelled votes should not be rejected. The matter is before the high court and would be decided by it.”
In the interim, Anand said, the status quo would remain and Chandra would continue to enjoy the position of MP. “Noting can be done about it in the interim”, he said.
The FIR against R.K. Nandal, secretary of the Haryana assembly, who was also the returning officer for the Rajya Sabha elections, was registered after the election commission was convinced that there was evidence against him to show that an unauthorised pen was used for casting the votes and that this resulted in cancellation of the votes of a large number of Congress member, who were expected to vote for Anand. Subsequently, Haryana chief electoral officer, Ankur Gupta, had lodged a complaint at the Sector 3 police station in Chandigarh.
As per the directions of the commission, the case has been registered under various sections of the Representation of People Act related to electoral offences apart from those of the Indian Penal Code pertaining to criminal conspiracy, interference in the election process, theft, cheating, mischief and forgery. Apart from Nandal, the case would also probe the conduct of other persons who were on election duty and whose role resulted in the cancellation of the votes.
The election commission had also ordered disciplinary action against Nandal for negligence and not carrying out his supervisory role properly. Nandal also finds himself in the midst of serious action because he is also alleged to have concealed facts pertaining to the case, particularly how the authorised pen was taken away and some of the members ended up voting with the unauthorised one.
It was also alleged that in his report to the chief electoral officer and the chief secretary on the elections, Nandal he had withheld on these developments.
The election had taken a curious turn after the votes of 12 Congress MLAs and its allies were declared invalid, since they had not been marked with the sketch pen kept officially for the purpose of voting. As a result of these votes being rejected, Anand had lost.
The Congress had later ,cried foul. In his report to the state CEO, Nandal had noted that on polling day BJP MLA Subhash Barala “came out of the voting compartment with a ball pen in his hand, saying that one pen was lying in the voting compartment and another pen (was) tied with thread”. Nandal had submitted that the spare pen was removed and the BJP legislator was told to mark his vote with the pen which was tied to the thread.
Nandal had stated that on an analysis of the recording, he found that the seventh MLA to enter the polling booth, BJP’s Rohilla Rewri, “inadvertently” took a pen inside with her. BJP’s Kavita Jain and Chief Minister M.L. Khattar voted after her and then Barala went in, “came and noticed this pen, which was removed from the voting compartment”.
The election commission was, however, not convinced by Nandal’s report and noted that “the returning officer did not bring this incident to EC’s notice either in the poll day report… or at the time of seeking permission for counting. This amounts to concealment of material facts from EC…this is a serious case of lack of supervisory control and negligence…”
Though Nandal insisted that he acted “as per rules”, the EC went ahead and recommended action against him.