The suspension of an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer who had checked Prime Minister Narendra Modi's helicopter in Odisha last week was revoked by the Election Commission on Thursday evening, shortly after a tribunal put it on hold and asked for responses from both the sides in three weeks. Mohammed Mohsin had been suspended by the poll body, which had said that he "had not acted in conformity" with instructions on Special Protection Group (SPG) protectees.
However, opposition parties had expressed outrage at the move, saying there was no rule which exempts anyone from such checks during polls.
Staying the suspension on Thursday, the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) said, "it cannot be said that SPG Protectees are eligible for anything and everything" and that "election officials have checked private vehicles of [Karnataka] Chief Minister Shri [HD] Kumaraswamy more than once and no action followed... the Chief Minister of Odisha's vehicles were also checked."
The tribunal noted that it was apparently PM Modi's security detail which complained about the officer ordering video recording of Prime Minister's helicopter from a distance.
It also referred to the controversy over a black trunk seen being hauled away from the Prime Minister's helicopter during a rally in Karnataka, saying "questions were raised about it but apparently no action followed".
Shortly after the order, the Election Commission revoked the suspension, asking the officer to report back to the Karnataka government. However, holding him guilty of "dereliction of duty", it has recommended the state government initiate disciplinary action against him.
Reports say as a general observer of Odisha's Sambalpur constituency, Mohammed Mohsin, a 1996 batch Karnataka cadre IAS officer, had carried out a sudden check of PM Modi's helicopter, which delayed the Prime Minister by 15 minutes.
This led to him being accused of "insubordination and dereliction of duty" and suspension by the Election Commission on April 17.
But questions were soon raised over which rule was violated. Last week, an Election Commission spokesperson had said: "As cited in the order...instruction dated 10.4.14 states that SPG protectees are excluded from checking."
But the instructions cited in the suspension order did not list any such exception, NDTV found.
NDTV is yet to receive a response from the Election Commission to the question whether it had cited a non-existent provision to punish Mohammed Mohsin. The officer too has refused to comment.
The official's suspension had 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.
AAP tweeted: "The #chowkidar lives in his own protected shell! Is the Chowkidar trying to hide something?"