NGO writ petition against Election Commission and congress

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Shillong, Feb 28 (UNI) The Shillong Bench of Gauhati High Court today issued notice to the Chief Election Commission relating to the recovery of Rs 23.80 lakhs from the hotel room of two AICC officials in Meghalaya.

A Single Division Bench of Justice T Vaiphei issued the order after a city-based NGO, the Civil Society of Women Organisation (CSWO), filed a writ petition against the Election Commission, Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) and East Khasi Hills Returning Officer, following the CEO's refusal to furnish recorded statement of AICC General Secretary In-Charge North East Margaret Alva on the Rs 23.80 lakhs recovery by election observers from the hotel room of AICC Secretary Capt (Retd) Praveen Davar and cashier Vijay Malhotra.

The NGO has also made the AICC as one of the respondents.

According to the NGO, the writ petition was filed to ensure smooth, free and fair elections.

On receiving reports, on Sunday morning (February 24), election observers rushed to Pine Wood hotel and questioned two AICC officials on the reported possession of the money, which complainants alleged was meant to influence voters in the ensuing March 3 assembly elections.

On recovering the Rs 23.80 lakhs, Ms Alva had, in a hurriedly arranged news conference, said the money (Rs 23.80 lakhs) was meant for the election campaign of four candidates -- Rs five lakhs each -- while the rest of the amount (Rs 3.80 lakhs), was kept for the expenses during the Prime Minister's scheduled visit to Meghalaya.

However, East Khasi Hills district Returning Officer B Dhar had said Ms Alva had given an accounts statement only for Rs 3.35 crore which was brought here from New Delhi.

An amount of Rs 3 crore had already been distributed to 60 Congress candidates and the rest was earmarked towards expenses for Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's scheduled visit to the state yesterday, he added.

According to the RO, the Congress was left with about Rs 24 lakhs after catering for the visits and allotting candidates' campaign fund in the state.

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