Days after the Madras High Court transferred the Madurai district collector over a security breach at a counting centre, Tamil Nadu’s Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) has said that the tehsildars and three other people entered the centre to complete some pending work.
On April 20, protests took place outside Madurai Medical College counting centre after tehsildar Sampoornam and three other officers entered the strongroom where EVMs are stored, two days after voting was completed. The officials reportedly spent over three hours inside the room, allegedly taking documents outside for photocopying.
According to a report in the Times of India, CEO Satyabrata Sahoo said, “She (the tehsildar) actually did not enter the strong rooms in which EVMs and VVPATs are kept. She entered the Madurai West Assembly segment room to check some papers on the votes polled on April 18, to collate the data with actual votes polled. Generally, the officials will collate the number of votes polled with other data, but this official did not complete the work on the next day of polling (April 19) and instead entered the room on April 20.”
He added, “The rooms have the presiding officers’ diaries and other papers but forms 17A (details of voters and votes polled) are kept in the strong room along with EVMs and VVPATs.”
Days after he was transferred by the Madras High Court over the breach, former Madurai district collector S Natarajan submitted a report on the incident. According to one report in The Hindu, the report, submitted of his own accord to the CEO, was unsolicited. The court had come down heavily on the bureaucrat when it was hearing a PIL filed by CPI(M) Lok Sabha candidate Su Venkatesan, who had expressed fears that the tehsildar could have manipulated postal ballot records.
Soon after the incident came to light, Venkatesan had met then collector and District Electoral Officer, Natarajan. However, the bureaucrat reportedly claimed that he was unaware of the break-in. “It is totally untrue as he (Collector) cannot be a person unaware of the said incident when the unlawful entrants were let off only at the intervention of some officials from his office,” Venkatesan had said in his affidavit before the court.