The EC Thursday asked Punjab’s chief secretary and the deputy commissioner of Sangrur to explain why they sought extension of polling time towards closing hours saying it amounted to “attempt of unduly interfering in the election process and influence certain class of voters”. It said the letter of the returning officer and subsequent request by the chief secretary at 4:05 pm amount to “attempt of unduly interfering in the election process and influence certain class of voters by conveying them to expedite voting or wait for time extension”.
The commission condemns such behaviour by the officers during election process, it said. In a strongly-worded letter to the chief electoral officer of Punjab, the EC expressed “displeasure” on the “unwarranted communication making request for extension of poll timing on the poll day for reasons which pre-existed even during notification of the by-election”. Officials said the plea taken to extend time was that people were still working in paddy fields. It was a fact which was already known when the notification was issued.
“I have been directed to state that detailed explanation from the Chief Secretary and Returning Officer shall be called regarding reasons and circumstances and new facts that arose in the afternoon of polling day necessitating writing of such letter so as to reach Commission by tomorrow (Friday) 1.00 pm to take further decision on initiating disciplinary proceedings,” the letter by an EC secretary said. The Sangrur Lok Sabha bypoll was necessitated after Bhagwant Mann won a seat in the Punjab assembly polls recently and became the state chief minister.