Representational image | Photo: Mathrubhumi
Kochi: The Election Commission (EC) on Wednesday informed the Kerala High Court that the packet which contained the postal ballots of Perinthalmanna Assembly polls were tampered with and 482 valid postal ballots were not to be found. EC senior principal secretary Narendra N Butolia submitted the commission’s inquiry report before the court in this regard.
According to the report, lapses from the part of CN Pratheesh, senior inspector at Malappuram cooperative societies joint registrar office, joint registrar SN Prabith, S Rajeev of Perinthalmanna sub treasury and sub treasury officer N Satheesh Kumar led to the issue.
The inquiry report was submitted by EC standing counsel Deepu Lal Mohan. The case will be heard by Justice A Badharudeen. A trunk box that contained the election documents was also inspected upon the direction of the court.
Of the postal ballots, both sides of 567 ballots, the outer cover of two packets of two invalid postal ballots, were found torn. Also, all the seven packets in the trunk were covered with unsealed plastic sheets.
As the district election officer, it is the responsibility of the district collector to store the poll documents. However, the collector was then busy with the parliamentary elections in Malappuram. Hence, the ballots were directed to be stored in the sub treasury owing to lack of space in the district headquarters.
According to the report, election documents were expected to be stored in separate rooms, steel racks, or almirahs. Lapses were identified on the part of the district collector and returning officer in adhering to these guidelines. However, the report clarifies that these lapses are not connected to any tampering of the poll documents.
The statements of then Malappuram collector Gopalakrishnan, present collector VR Premkumar, Perinthalmanna sub collector Sreedhanya Suresh and then Perinthalmanna returning officer KS Anju were recorded by the commission as part of the inquiry.
A ballot box was found missing from the treasury after the high court ordered the production of election documents as part of a petition questioning the poll victory of Najeeb Kanthapuram MLA in Perinthalmanna constituency.
Najeeb had won the poll with a majority of 38 votes. Following this, Left independent candidate KP Muhammad Mustafa filed a petition in the court asserting that 340 postal votes were left uncounted due to technical reasons and claimed that he had won about 300 of them.