Chief Electoral Officer Frederick Roy Kharkongor today denied any wrongdoings on the part of his office in connection with the allegations by Trinamool Congress national spokesman Saket S. Gokhale that the Chief Electoral Officer and Election Commission of India had failed to act against the NPP for not filing its election expenditure report.
In a statement issued today, Kharkongor said that as per the instructions of the Election Commission of India, all national and state recognised parties are mandated to submit a statement of expenditures directly to the ECI.
“By law, this statement of expenditure is not submitted/lodged at the office of the Chief Electoral Officer of the State as per statutes,” Kharkongor said.
“The mandate of the office of the Chief Electoral Officer is strictly restricted only to receiving the statements of expenditures of various contesting candidates,” he added.
The Chief Electoral Officer also said that as per provisions laid down, there is a carefully laid down protocol and rule bound sequence in respect of receipt of statements of expenditure of the contesting candidates.
He also highlighted that all the contesting candidates fielded by a political party or independent candidates who contested the Meghalaya Assembly elections in 2018 have duly complied and submitted their statements of expenditures with the office of the Chief Electoral Officer.
“Expenditure statements of state or national parties are not lodged in the office of the Chief Electoral Officer. It is reiterated that only expenditure statements of individual candidates are submitted at the State level with the office of the Chief Electoral Officer as per the detailed process,” Kharkongor said.
Stating that NPP was a recognised State party in 2018, Kharkongor said that it was clearly evident that the matter “lies well beyond the mandate of the office of the Chief Electoral Officer”.
Kharkongor also said that the RTI application dated September 14, 2022 filed by Gokhale was promptly transferred by the office of the Chief Electoral Officer to the competent higher authority on September 22, 2022.
“It is learnt as per records that the Election Commission of India has also taken cognisance and duly responded to the applicant vide its letter dated October 3, 2022. Further, the Election Commission of India vide its letter dated November 21, 2022 has also allowed the applicant to make an appeal to the first appellate authority, with details clearly indicated, within 30 days of receipt of the above letter, in case the concerned applicant is not satisfied with the information provided,” Kharkongor said.
Stating that the office of the Chief Electoral Officer remains committed to the conduct of free, fair and inclusive elections with bias, prejudice towards none, Kharkongor said, “The deliberate aspersions cast appear mischievous, misdirected, misleading, avoidable and unfortunate.”
It may be mentioned that Gokhale has sought the Meghalaya High Court’s intervention into the alleged failure of the ruling NPP to file its election expenditure report within 75 days of the State Assembly elections in 2018.
Gokhale in his plea has called to attention the alleged failure of the Election Commission of India and the Chief Electoral Officer, Meghalaya to take necessary action against the NPP for flouting the law.