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Relief for PM chopper officer

‘VIPS not eligible for anything and everything’

By K.M. Rakesh in Bangalore
  • Published 26.04.19, 7:09 AM
  • Updated 26.04.19, 7:09 AM
  • 2 mins read
Narendra Modi. The chopper that was ferrying him was searched in Odisha’s Sambalpur last week (PTI)

The IAS officer who was suspended for ordering an inspection of the Prime Minister’s helicopter in Odisha has said he has not received any response from the Election Commission on why action was taken against him.

“I had written to the Election Commission of India, the chief electoral officer of Odisha and the Sambalpur district collector (seeking clarity on the suspension). But till this moment I have not received any response,” Mohammed Mohsin told The Telegraph hours after the Central Administrative Tribunal stayed his suspension and reinstated him.

Later in the evening, the Election Commission revoked the suspension but debarred Mohsin from poll duty. It also recommended that the Karnataka government, to whom the officer has been asked to report, initiate disciplinary action on the basis of the factual report on the incident in Sambalpur.

Mohsin was then deputed as a general observer of the Election Commission in Odisha. The Election Commission had cited violation of guidelines on protectees of the Special Protection Group to suspend the IAS officer.

The tribunal, while staying the suspension order that was issued after the chopper that was ferrying Narendra Modi was searched in Odisha’s Sambalpur last week, made a significant reference in its order.

Desisting from immediately contesting the existence of a circular exempting those guarded by the Special Protection Group from such inspections, the tribunal said: “Probably, it is so but during an election process, while reasonable assurances of protection and security must be made available to SPG protectees, it cannot be said that they are eligible for anything and everything and, as pointed out by the learned counsel for the applicant, there was a news report indicating that heavy packages were taken way from the Hon’ble Prime Minister’s cavalcade into another vehicle and sped away in another vehicle in the State of Karnataka.”

“Questions were raised about it but apparently no action followed,” the tribunal said. The incident had taken place on April 8 when Modi arrived in Chitradurga in Karnataka for campaigning.

On Thursday evening, soon after he rejoined duty as secretary in the Backward Classes Welfare Department, Mohsin told this newspaper: “I had given a written explanation of the events to the election commission on the same day. But the election commission did not take cognizance of it while deciding to suspend me.”

The officer, who was last week sent back from Odisha to Karnataka under suspension, said he was not present at the spot when the Prime Minister’s helicopter was inspected on April 16.

“I was not even there when the helicopter was searched,” said.

Observers are not empowered to carry out the searches. They can guide the district electoral officer or the returning officer who are expected to carry out the search.

After the suspension was stayed, “I submitted the order copy before the chief secretary and resumed my duty this evening,” Mohsin added.

The tribunal directed the Election Commission to respond within four weeks to its notice on “settling this matter once and for all” and posted the matter for further hearing on June 3.

The order said Mohsin’s counsel took note of the fact that Election Commission officials had checked vehicles of Karnataka chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy and Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik without inviting punishment on more than one occasion.

Last Friday, former chief election commissioner S.Y. Quraishi had termed the suspension “unfortunate” and tweeted, that it was “…a great missed opportunity to restore not only the image of the EC but also the PM himself. Both these institutions have been under th public scanner — PM for repeatedly violating the model code and EC repeatedly overlooking it….”

He had added: “In contrast, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, because of his extremely dignified conduct during a similar raid on his chopper in front of his eyes, has come out with his stature enhanced.”

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