Ladakh:'Army officers indulged in malpractices in ETPB'

Buddhist monks wait outside a polling station to vote near the Hemis Monastery about 45km from Leh in India's Ladakh region on May 6, 2019. - India held on May 6 the fifth phase of its marathon election, with 90 million people eligible to vote in key seats for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party and security heavy in restive Kashmir. (AFP)

In a major embarrassment to army district election officer (DEO), Leh in Jammu and Kashmir has informed the army higher-ups that some commanding officers have allegedly violated the secrecy of voting and malpractice has the potential to invite strict legal action.
 
Avny Lavasa, deputy commissioner Leh, who is also DEO, in a letter No: Elec-I (Lok Sabha)/2019(703) dated 10-05-2019 to General Officer Commanding of Leh based 14-Corp has informed him about the complaint received from a contesting candidate. 
 
“A complaint has been received from a contesting candidate, wherein it is alleged that there are malpractices on part of various commanding officers of the India army in the electronic postal ballot system. It is alleged that the commanding officers are telephonically asking jawans for their voting preference rather than supplying to them the ballot paper for casting the votes,” the letter reads.
 
Questioning the neutrality of these army officers in the just-concluded Lok Sabha elections in Leh, the DEO further writes: “This is a gross violation of the secrecy of voting and the malpractice that has the potential to invite strict legal action.”
 
Sources said the complaints was received form Sajjad Hussain and Asgar Ali Karbalai, both independent candidates. “No specific instances have been mentioned in the complaints,” they said. 
 
Army sources while confirming the development said some political candidates appear to have complained regarding postal ballot process to be cast by service personnel. 
 
“No specific instances have been mentioned in the complaints and the preliminary investigations indicate that these are unfounded and appears to have made to tarnish the image of Army,” they said.
 
“In-depth investigation is on to ascertain the details in the most impartial manner and the army remains apolitical and we hold this core value in letter and spirit,” they added.
 
The polling to Ladakh Lok Sabha seat was held on May 6 in the fifth and last phase of general elections in the state. Days before the election, a group of journalists in Leh accused the BJP of slipping in Rs. 500 notes in envelopes in an attempt to "bribe reporters for favourable coverage."
 
Taking cognizance of the complaint, Jammu and Kashmir police registered an FIR against state BJP president Ravinder Raina and other leaders accused of attempting to bribe journalists.
 
The police action followed the direction from the Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) Leh. Earlier, the complaints were filed by Press Club Leh and Congress candidate from Ladakh Parliamentary constituency, Rigzin Spalbar last week alleging a violation of the Model Code of Conduct by BJP leaders.

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