The decisions were taken by the ECI after reviewing reports sent by its special poll observers, Ajay Nayak and Vivek Dube, and the state government.

Mamata Banerjee speaking at an election rally in West Bengal in the run up to the Assembly polls. File image/PTI
news 2021 West Bengal Assembly Election Monday, March 15, 2021 - 08:48

The Election Commission of India (ECI) Sunday concurred with its two poll observers that there was no premeditated attack on West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in Nandigram during her poll campaign, and that her injuries were the result of a security lapse.

Taking stern action over the "slack" bandobast arrangements, the commission ordered immediate suspension of IPS officer Vivek Sahay, who was in-charge of the Chief Minister's security, and Purba Medinipur Superintendent of Police (SP) Praween Prakash. It also transferred Purba Medinipur District Magistrate (DM).

"Charges must be framed against him (Vivek Sahay) within a week for grossly failing in discharge of his primary duty as Director, Security, to protect the Z+ protectee," the ECI said in a statement.

It said the state Chief Secretary, in consultation with the Director General of Police (DGP), is authorised to post a suitable director of security immediately.

The poll panel also decided that a committee comprising the Chief Secretary and the DGP will "identify within next three days the other proximate security personnel below Director Security who failed in their duties to prevent the incident and protect the Z+ protectee, and take suitable action for their failure..."

The ECI also transferred Purba Medinipur District Magistrate Vibhu Goel to a non-election post, replacing him with IAS officer Smita Pandey as the DM and district election officer, the statement said.

The poll panel also ordered immediate suspension of Purba Medinipur SP Praween Prakash and directed framing of charges against him for a "major failure" of bandobast. He has been replaced by Sunil Kumar Yadav.

The decisions were taken by the ECI after reviewing reports sent by its special poll observers, Ajay Nayak and Vivek Dube, and the state government.

Based on the reports, the ECI concluded that CM Banerjee sustained the injuries prima facie due to a lapse on the part of her security in-charge, sources had earlier said.

The TMC chief had sustained injuries on left leg and waist after she fell down while campaigning in Nandigram Wednesday evening post filing nomination from the constituency. There were allegations she was pushed by unidentified people.

Sources said in his report to the poll panel, the chief secretary has said, "It is evident that the presence of police force at the said spot to protect the Z+ protectee, specially during the election time, was not adequate and deployment of additional police personnel at the spot could have averted the incident."

His report also mentions that "the local police arrangements at the spot of the incident were not commensurate with and adequate for the stature of the protectee."

"The local police preparedness was not sufficient for dealing with the crowd at the spot. The overall synergy which is required to be established between the Directorate of Security and local or district police was not there," he wrote, according to sources.

Special Observers Ajay Nayak and Vivek Dube in their joint report have observed that the district administration has the overall responsibility in their jurisdiction for arranging fool-proof security arrangements for a chief minister's visit.

The district police are required to provide a strong route bandobast for the travel of the VVIP.

"In fact, when it was expected that the CM might visit a temple situated close to the scene of incident and a separate contingent of police officers and men were deployed at the temple, it begs the question as to why a strong route-bandobast was not provided to stop the crowd from coming close to the CM's vehicle," the report observed, according to sources. "Obviously, the bandobast arrangements were slack and it led to the unsavory incident," it pointed out.

Citing the report of the DM and the SP, the observers said there were several and frequent changes in the tour programme of the CM and therefore they had to take recourse to what they call a "floating security arrangement".

"This we find to be bizzare and is definitely not in consonance with the security protocols prescribed for high dignitaries such as the CM of West Bengal. The joint report of DM and SP also includes a report from Kishore Kumar Biswas, the Returning Officer (RO) of Nandigram assembly seat, where he mentions that there was no scheduled event at BiruliaBazar, Gholpukhuria under Nandigram-I Dev block where the incident happened.

"The flippant attitude towards the security of the CM exhibited by Vivek Sahay, Director Security, is evident by the fact that he was sitting in the bullet proof (BP) car meant for the VVIP," the observers noted.

"It is nobody's case," their report said, "that the CM is known to prefer using normal vehicles rather than the BP vehicle which is sine qua non for the protection of the VVIP. If the VVIP choose to flout the prescribed security norms/protocols as they seem to consider these to be a hindrance in connecting with their adoring masses, it is incumbent upon the security detail to prevail in such matters lest it should lead to tragic consequences," Nayak's and Dube's report said.

Based on the inputs and the incident, the Commission has now directed that since the security of star campaigners becomes far more sensitive during the election period, established SoPs, including advance detailed programme, necessary permissions to hold rallies or road shows, should be followed scrupulously.

"Any deviation from an approved programme should only be permitted after necessary approval," it said in a statement.

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