New Delhi: The Election Commission on Tuesday constituted a committee of senior officials to look into the alleged leak of the schedule of upcoming assembly elections in Karnataka even before it was announced by the poll watchdog.
The committee has been asked to submit its report within a week. The committee has also been directed to suggest steps needed to prevent any such eventuality in future.
In a statement, the poll watchdog referred to a tweet by BJP IT cell chief Amit Malviya in which he had put out the election date minutes before CEC OP Rawat actually announced the schedule at a press conference.
Malviya tweeted that polls would be held on May 12 and counting will take place on May 18. While he was correct about the date of polling, he got the counting date wrong which will actually take place on May 15.
"The Commission immediately directed that the matter be probed and necessary and effective action be taken. Accordingly, Commission has constituted a committee of senior officers of Election Commission to investigate the matter and give its report within seven days,'' a statement from the Election Commission said.
"The Committee would also suggest steps needed to prevent any such eventuality in future. The Committee set up by the Commission has already sought information from the concerned media organisations and individuals,'' the statement read further.
It said Malviya, in another tweet, had attributed a news channel as his source.
In his press conference to announce the poll schedule, Rawat had described the leak as a "very serious" issue that merited a probe and "stringent action".
He said people can conjecture but noted that as information has been "leaked", the Election Commission will probe the matter and take "stringent action" both "legally and administratively".
The alleged leak of election dates had snowballed into a major political storm with political parties, including Congress and CPI, demanding strict action against those responsible for it.
Hitting out at the BJP, Congress dubbed the saffron party as "Super Election Commission", taking strong objection to its IT cell chief tweeting the date of the Karnataka Assembly election before the Election Commission had announced it.
Congress communications in-charge Randeep Surjewala also said the Election Commission's credibility was at test and asked if there would be any action against the ruling party and its chief Amit Shah.
"BJP becomes the Super Election Commission as they announced poll dates for Karnataka even before the EC. The credibility of the EC is at test,'' he said.
"Will EC now issue a notice to BJP president, Amit Shah and register an FIR against BJP IT Head for leaking EC's confidential information," Surjewala asked on Twitter.
Meanwhile, the CPI also took strong exception to the BJP's IT cell chief tweeting the date of the Karnataka Assembly elections even before the Election Commission announced it, saying the poll panel should answer how he got to know about it.
"It is a huge embarrassment for the Election Commission. The EC should answer how he got to know about the date. How can such a thing happen and the BJP announces the date when only the EC has the mandate to conduct free and fair polls," party National Secretary D Raja said.
"I hope that our democracy is not so weak, otherwise the BJP will start announcing the election results also," he said.
Observing that "many questions are being raised" about the EC, he said questions were raised when polls to Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, slated around the same time, were announced separately.
"The courts also indicted the poll panel on the issue of disqualification of the 20 Aam Aadmi Party members (on grounds of holding office-of-profit)," Raja added.