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High court seeks poll probe status
- Focus on 2010 Rajya Sabha elections

Ranchi, April 18: Jharkhand High Court today directed the state vigilance bureau to submit a status report on investigations into the alleged horse-trading during the 2010 Rajya Sabha elections in the state.

Hearing a public interest litigation filed by Durga Oraon — who had sought a CBI probe into the 2010 elections as well — a division bench of Chief Justice Prakash Tatia and Justice Aparesh Kumar Singh asked the bureau to submit a report within three weeks.

The court has already ordered the Election Commission to hand over the case of misuse of money power during the March 30 elections to the CBI. Ironically, the Centre is yet to act on the poll panel’s plea, raising concerns about the guilty getting enough time to tamper with evidence.

The Election Commission, while seeking a CBI probe into the countermanded March 30 elections, had pointed out that similar allegations of abuse of money power and horse-trading had surfaced after the 2010 elections as well.

Alchemist Group chairman K.D. Singh and Dheeraj Sahu were elected on JMM and Congress tickets respectively. Ajay Maroo, fielded by BJP, lost.

The vigilance bureau has been investigating the case since August 2010 after the Commission directed the chief secretary to initiate criminal proceedings against six MLAs — Rajesh Ranjan, Yogendra Sao and Sawna Lakra (Congress), Uma Shankar Akela (BJP), Simon Marandi and Teklal Mahto (JMM), after they were shown demanding money for votes in a sting operation conducted by a private television channel.

In the sting operation aired in August 2010, the MLAs were shown demanding Rs 50 lakh to Rs 2 crore and even a four-wheeler to vote for a particular candidate for the two Rajya Sabha seats from Jharkhand.

An FIR was registered against the six MLAs on August 5, 2010. All were charged under Section 120(B) of the Indian Penal Code and under Sections 7,8 and 13(B) of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

The Commission in its letter to the Centre also stated that no substantive progress had been reported about the investigation.

The bureau has so far interrogated five MLAs (Teklal Mahto is dead).

Meanwhile, according to sources, the bureau is in the process of verifying the statements. An officer requesting anonymity said it took a lot of persuasion and even warning to the TV channel to get the unedited CD showing the MLAs from Jharkhand demanding cash and kind to vote for a particular candidate.

The operatives who had filmed the sting have also deposed before the vigilance bureau and identified the various places at Ranchi where they filmed the entire operation.

In a related development, Ranchi deputy commissioner-cum-district electoral officer K.K. Soan today set up a 24x7 complaint cell at the district composite control room and a flying squad to check use of money power in the biennial elections on May 3, keeping in mind the poll panel directive.

The administration also issued a list of officers who will man the cell. They will work in coordination with the chief electoral officer and rush with the police to raid should they receive any complaint of horse-trading.

In the meantime, Congress hopeful Pradeep Balmuchu remained on tenterhooks as the party high command was yet to announce a candidate. “Senior Congress leaders are persuading Babulal Marandi to come on board and support the party nominee,” Balmuchu said.