- He didn't act in conformity with rules on SPG protectees, said the order
- Mohammed Mohsin was accused of insubordination and dereliction of duty
- Suspension provoked outraged tweets from Congress and AAP
An IAS officer was suspended by the Election Commission last night for checking Prime Minister Narendra Modi's helicopter in Odisha's Sambalpur on Tuesday. Mohammed Mohsin "had not acted in conformity" with instructions on Special Protection Group (SPG) protectees, said the election body's order. But there is no rule that exempts anyone from such checks during polls, a fact that opposition parties like the Congress flagged in tweets condemning the move.
Mohammed Mohsin, a 1996 batch Karnataka cadre IAS (Indian Administrative Service) officer, has been accused of "insubordination and dereliction of duty". Reports say as a general observer of Sambalpur constituency, the officer had carried out a sudden check of PM Modi's helicopter, which delayed the Prime Minister by 15 minutes.
Asked to specify the rule that had been violated, an Election Commission spokesperson said: "As cited in the order...instruction dated 10.4.14 states that SPG protectees are excluded from checking."
NDTV has accessed the instructions cited in the suspension order but no such exception is listed.
The Election Commission's March 22 instructions echo an earlier order dated April 10, 2014.
The instructions read: "There shall be a total and absolute ban on the use of official vehicles for campaigning, electioneering or election-related travel."
On SPG protectees, it says: "The only exception from the above said prohibition will be Prime Minister and other political personalities, who might, in view of extremist and terrorist activities and threat to their lives, require security of a high order and whose security requirements are governed by any statutory provisions made by the Parliament or the State Legislature in this behalf."
But the Election Commission adds a caveat that "...if it has any reason to doubt that the assessment of security requirements made by authorities under the SPG Act or any other special instruction ...have been manifestly or unduly excessive with the intention of promoting indirectly the electoral interests of a particular party or candidate, the commission will bring the matter to the notice of the concerned Government for immediate and appropriate corrective steps."
NDTV also accessed the poll panel's instruction dated 14 July 1999 on the "use of Government Aircrafts/Helicopters"; that too does not does not exclude anyone from searches.
So the Election Commission has apparently cited a non-existent provision to punish Mohammed Mohsin. NDTV tried to contact the officer several times but he has refused to comment. The Election Commission is yet to respond to our query.
The official's suspension has provoked outraged tweets from the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
The Congress wondered in its post, "What is Modi carrying in the helicopter that he doesn't want India to see?" The party said the Election Commission's rules do not exempt the PM's vehicle from being searched.
An official was suspended by ECI for doing his job of inspecting vehicles.— Congress (@INCIndia) April 18, 2019
The rule cited governs the use of official vehicles for campaigning. It exempt PM's vehicle from being searched.
What is Modi carrying in the helicopter that he doesn't want India to see? pic.twitter.com/apDdhgSMJB
AAP tweeted: "The #chowkidar lives in his own protected shell! Is the Chowkidar trying to hide something?"