EC sets up panel to probe Karnataka poll date leak

The Chief Election Commissioner O P Rawat was on Tuesday caught by surprise when  he learnt during a news conference  that a BJP leader had already  made public the election dates in Karnataka, even before he could do it.  

The EC later constituted a committee of senior officers of the commission to investigate the matter and submit its report within seven days.

The CEC was yet to read out the poll schedule when reporters drew his attention to the tweet by the BJP IT cell chief, Amit Malviya, who had already posted that Karnataka would go to polls on May 12.

The CEC, visibly perplexed, looked at senior Deputy Election Commissioner Umesh Sinha and other officials and apparently enquired about the veracity of the information that the poll date had been announced.

"Certain things may have leaked for which Election Commission will take appropriate action," he later told reporters.

"It will be investigated. Be assured, legally and administratively befitting action would be taken," added Rawat, as several mediapersons repeatedly asked him for the commission's reaction to the unprecedented leak of the election dates.

 

The CEC also did not rule out the possibility of changing the poll dates and said it would take a call on it after conducting an investigation.Rawat then went on to read out the schedule of the elections.

 

"Karnataka will vote on 12 May 2018, counting on 18 May 2018," Malviya posted on Twitter at 11.08 am - almost 15 minutes before the CEC officially announced the schedule. He got the date of polling correct, but the date of counting wrong. The CEC said that the votes would be counted on May 15.

 

The BJP IT cell chief, however, deleted the tweet after it triggered a controversy.It was later found that Srivatsa, who introduces himself as "Karnataka Congress social media in-charge" on Twitter, also posted at 11.08 am that polling would be held on May 12 and the results would be out on May 18.

 

Both Malviya and Srivatsa later stated on Twitter that they had posted the dates only after some TV channels aired the poll schedule.

The EC took note of Malviya's original tweet revealing the poll date and his subsequent tweets citing a TV channel as his source. The probe committee set up by the commission already sought information from the media organisations concerned, and individuals.

"The committee would also suggest steps needed to prevent any such eventuality in future," the EC said in a statement.

Though the EC apparently decided by Monday that it would announce the date of polling for Karnataka, it notified the journalists only early on Tuesday - less than three-and-a-half hours before the CEC started addressing the press conference.

He said the EC had decided the schedule of the polls for the state keeping in mind the weather conditions as well as the academic calendar to make sure students preparing for various examinations were not disturbed by electioneering.

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