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EC sacks Munugode RO over 'road roller' symbol row

HYDERABAD: The Election Commission of India (ECI) has cracked a whip on Munugode returning officer Jagannadha Rao for violating elections norms by changing Yuga Thulasi Party candidate K.Shiva Kumar’s allotted symbol from 'road roller' to 'baby walker'.

The EC fired Jagannadha Rao as RO on Thursday, replacing him with Miryalaguda RDO Rohith Singh, and reallocated Shiva Kumar's 'road roller' symbol with immediate effect. Following the candidate's complaint, the EC issued a notice to Jagannadha Rao on Wednesday and demanded an explanation within 24 hours.

Shiva Kumar filed a complaint with the EC on October 17, and the EC deputed an official from New Delhi to Telangana on Wednesday to investigate the matter. The EC found that Jagannadha Rao changed the symbol by using non-existent powers under Rule 10 (5) of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, as well as failing to follow the commission's extant directions in the matter.

Shiva Kumar complained that he was allotted 'road roller' symbol by the RO in the draw of lots held on October 17 for allotting symbols to registered unrecognised parties and Independent candidates. However, subsequently the RO changed his symbol to 'baby walker' without any notice invoking the powers under Rule 10 (5) of Conduct of Election Rules 1961. The EC pointed out that under this Rule, only the Commission, not the RO, has the authority to revise the allotment order.

"The RO changing the symbol and allotting a new symbol in place of the originally allotted symbol invoking the provisions of Rule 10 (5) is ab-initio void being bad in law and facts. The same order is inconsistent with the Commission's relevant directions. The Commission also noted that the RO did not give any opportunity of hearing in the form of notice or otherwise to the candidate before changing the original symbol which is against the principle of natural justice," the EC noted.

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