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Andhra Pradesh HC Rejects Anticipatory Bail for Official Accused of Fabricating Voter IDs

Andhra Pradesh HC Rejects Anticipatory Bail for Official Accused of Fabricating Voter IDs

The Andhra Pradesh High Court recently refused anticipatory bail to a civic official accused of downloading more than 34,376 Elector's Photo Identity Cards (EPICs) with the alleged intent of fabricating votes.

The Court, in dismissing the anticipatory bail plea of the accused official, who served as an Assistant Returning Officer (ARO), emphasized the profound importance of each vote in upholding democracy. It underscored that any attempt to introduce fake votes blatantly undermines the very essence of democratic principles.

Justice T. Mallikarjuna Rao highlighted that the manipulation of 34,376 EPICs through the unauthorized use of the Electoral Registration Officer (ERO) login led to the fraudulent registration of fictitious individuals. This act was deemed a serious attack on the democratic process.

The official was accused of generating counterfeit EPICs by downloading genuine EPICs from the Election Commission of India (ECI) website. The complaint leading to the case was filed by D. Purandeswar, the State President of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), and was lodged with the ECI.

The accused official refuted all allegations and asserted that his passwords, One Time Passwords (OTPs), and other login credentials were shared with specific Data Entry Operators and other Officials within the TMC, who were also engaged in election-related responsibilities. In his plea for anticipatory bail, the official contended that these operators might have misused his login information to download the EPICs without his knowledge or consent.

The Court highlighted that an inquiry by an IAS officer revealed that the operators denied the accusation leveled against them. This denial cast doubt on the defense presented by the accused official and raised significant concerns regarding the integrity of the electoral process within the jurisdiction.

The Court determined that the allegations against the official were grave, emphasizing that such illicit activities severely undermine public trust in governmental institutions.

The Court expressed that a thorough investigation is necessary to ascertain whether the transfer of the accused official's credentials, which allegedly led to the creation of fake votes, was intentional or a result of negligence. The judge further noted that since the investigation into the case had not yet concluded, granting anticipatory bail to the accused official would not be appropriate at this stage.

"The anticipatory bail for the Petitioner may adversely impact the ongoing investigation. The nature of the accusations is grave. The investigation agency has not been able to interrogate the Petitioner. Custodial interrogation is deemed necessary to extract all material information about the offence," the Court said.

The judge emphasized that during the ongoing police investigation, the Court cannot delve into the merits of the allegations in the criminal case. It was stressed that the police must be allowed to complete their investigation unhindered.

The Court further noted that granting anticipatory bail at the investigation stage might impede the interrogation of the accused and the gathering of valuable information, which could be crucial for the case.

Advocate VR Reddy Kovvuri appeared for the accused official (petitioner).

Case Title: P. Chandramouliswar Reddy vs State of Andhra Pradesh

 

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