The Election Commission on Saturday issued orders for the immediate transfer of Revenue Divisional Officer and Madurai East Assembly constituency Returning Officer S. Suhumaran.
The authorities have been told to post him out of Madurai district.
The EC's order comes within hours of the allegation made by Mr.Suhumaran charging that he had frequently been asked over phone by Madurai Collector U. Sagayam to file a case against Union Chemicals and Fertilizers Minister and Madurai DMK MP M.K. Alagiri and his followers.
Though he was maintaining neutrality, Mr. Sagayam was “harassing and pressurising” him to do the illegal act, Mr. Suhumaran charged and added that he had asked the Commission to relieve him from election work. The Returning Officer is presently admitted to a private hospital with complaints of high blood pressure.
However, Mr. Sagayam denied the Returning Officer's charge that he pressured him to file a case against Mr. Alagiri. He said: “Will anybody do like this? I have no time for election work itself. It is a lie.” There was no need for him to harass any person, he said.
On the charge that he was acting against the ruling partymen, Mr. Sagayam said, “I am only implementing the Election Commission's order in a neutral way for conducting the election in an honest, just and independent manner. Please do not give a political colour to me.”
Mr. Sagayam said that he had sought explanation from Mr. Suhumaran whether he had allowed the DMK rural district secretary and candidate for the Madurai East Assembly to sit in his (Returning Officer's) room much before 11 a.m. when he came to file his nomination. “This was based on a newspaper report,” he said.
Earlier, the DMK sent a complaint to Chief Electoral Officer Praveen Kumar against the Collector, accusing him of forcing the RDO to foist a case on Mr. Alagiri and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam candidate of the constituency P. Moorthi. “This sort of behaviour and attitude of the District Collector will definitely create serious problems. Hence, in the interest of free and fair election you inquire into the matter and take suitable steps to maintain normalcy.”
On Friday, the Keezhavalavu police filed a case against Mr. Alagiri, Madurai Deputy Mayor P.M. Mannan and two other DMK functionaries under various Sections of the Indian Penal Code for “assaulting” and “preventing” a Tahsildar and a videographer of an election flying squad from videographing their movement.
The Tamil Nadu Revenue Officers' Association, which protested the attack, had threatened to boycott election work if the accused were not arrested on Saturday.