Pune: MAT Reverses Suspension of Officials Linked to Voting Machine Theft At Saswad

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Sumit Singh & Tikam Shekhawat

Pune, 4th April 2024: The Maharashtra Administrative Tribunal (MAT) has reinstated Purandar Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) Varsha Landge, Tehsildar Vikram Rajput, and Sub Divisional Police Officer (DYSP) Tanaji Barde to their positions after being suspended by the Maharashtra state government in connection with the theft of a voting machine (control unit) from the Tehsildar office in Saswad, Purandar taluka, Pune district. The suspensions were ordered by the Election Commission of India (ECI).

The incident, which occurred on the night of February 3-4, sent shockwaves through the electoral process, prompting swift action from the Election Commission of India, resulting in the suspension of these officials. The officers moved the MAT challenging their suspension.

In a surprising turn of events, the MAT overturned the suspension, citing insufficient evidence of negligence on the part of the officers. The decision has stirred debate among political circles and raised questions about the handling of the investigation.

CCTV footage from the Tehsildar office revealed that there was no security guard present at the time of the theft, despite protocols mandating their presence. However, it was noted that the Sub-Divisional Officer and Tehsildar had regularly conducted visits to the storage area where the voting machines were kept, adhering to guidelines set forth by the Central Election Commission.

Authorities have since apprehended the two individuals responsible for the theft and recovered the stolen items, including the voting machine. Police officials said that the accused thought that they were entering the Wada of Mastani and stealing valuables as the EVM unit resembled a box. They were caught within 24 hours of the incident.

With the accused now in custody, arguments have surfaced regarding the lack of clear negligence on the part of the reinstated officials.