Maintain sanctity of electoral process: Avny Lavasa tells Army

The district election officer, Leh has written to the Army authorities to maintain sanctity of electoral process after two contesting candidates alleged that officers were voting on behalf of soldiers posted away from their unit headquarters.

In a letter, DEO Leh, Avny Lavasa has written to General Officer Commanding 14 Corps to maintain sanctity of electoral process and sensitize the concerned officers about the procedures prescribed by the Election Commission regarding casting of votes by service voters. “It is alleged that the commanding officers are telephonically asking Jawans for their voting preference rather than supplying to them the ballot papers for casting his vote (sic). This is a gross violation of secrecy and a malpractice that has the potential to invite strict legal action,” reads the letter written by DEO.

 The DC wrote to the Army after Asgar Ali Karbalai, complained that superiors of Army were voting on behalf of soldiers who were not present at headquarters of their respective units.

They alleged that ballot papers were not being provided to the soldiers who were posted away from their unit headquarters and instead officers were voting on their behalf after consulting them over telephone.

“It is being reported from various reliable sources that the service voters who are not present in the headquarters of the respective units are being asked on telephone about their voting preference and voting is done by superiors. This is against the norms and the constitution. This needs to be corrected immediately as the service voting would continue till start of counting,” reads the letter written by chief polling agent of Karbalai to DEO.

“You are requested to kindly intervene in the matter and ensure that the service voters get their voting slips and vote according to their own choice and freedom.”

As per procedure, Army personnel are entitled to vote at their place of posting through postal ballots. They can send the ballot papers for ongoing Lok Sabha to returning officers until the start of counting on May 23.

Meanwhile, Public Relation Officer, Defence Ministry, Col Rajesh Kalia said that preliminary investigations indicate that the complaints are unfounded and appears to have been made to tarnish the image of Army.

“Some political candidates appear to have complained regarding postal ballot process to be cast by service personnel,” he said, adding that no specific instances have been mentioned in the complaints.

He said that in- depth investigation is on to ascertain the details in the most impartial manner.

“Army remains apolitical and we hold this core value in letter and spirit,” he said.