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EC rejects Opposition plea for VVPAT tally before vote count

Today’s counting sequence will remain as per SC-approved guidelines

All set: Arrangements being made on the eve of counting of votes at a centre in the Commonwealth Games Village in New Delhi on Wednesday. Sandeep Saxena The Hindu

A day ahead of the counting of votes in the 2019 Lok Sabha poll, the Election Commission (EC) rejected the demand of Opposition parties for tallying of the Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips in five polling booths in each Assembly segment with the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), prior to the vote count.

In a statement on Wednesday, the EC said the VVPAT counting sequence would remain as per the Supreme Court-approved guidelines.

A delegation of 22 Opposition parties had met the full Election Commission on Tuesday. Among other things, they requested the EC to count the VVPAT slips before the start of counting of votes polled in EVMs.

‘In-depth’ discussions

Subsequently, the EC deliberated on the issue with senior officials concerned, and after two rounds of “in-depth” discussions, it arrived at the decision.

“It has neither been found possible nor feasible to accede to this demand in the overall context and especially in view of the judgment of the Supreme Court in writ petition (C) No.273 of 2019 delivered on April 8,” it said.

According to the EC, the judgment directs that the random selection of VVPATs be subjected to the process of slip verification as per the guidelines 16.6 of the EVM manual in force.

Procedural issues

“There were some other procedural issues like allowing counting agents of candidates along with all Returning Officers and Assistant Returning Officers, on which necessary instructions have already been reiterated and, wherever required, made more candidate-friendly,” the EC said.

The EC assured the political parties of strict adherence to the set procedures for the entire counting process, especially the security of the strong rooms and the counting centres.

The parties had also demanded that in case of any discrepancy in the EVM-VVPAT verification, 100% counting of the slips at all polling booths be done in that particular segment.

Documents stolen from IAF Rafale team office in France

Break-in occurred on the premises of Dassault Aviation

In a major security breach, a break-in and theft occurred in the Paris office of the Indian Air Force (IAF) Project Management Team (PMT) overseeing the Rafale fighter deal, and some documents have been taken away, according to multiple defence sources. There was a break-in in two other offices on the premises, another source said.

“The incident occurred on Sunday night and some documents have been taken. An investigation is under way,” a defence source told The Hindu on condition of anonymity. “It is Dassault Aviation’s responsibility as it has been on its premises,” the source added. The PMT consists of four IAF officers and is headed by a Group Captain.

Safes broken open

At least two sources confirmed that some safes were broken open and the culprits “managed to get away with some documents...” But the nature of the documents was not known. Defence Ministry and IAF officials declined to comment.

However, a second source said it looked like a case of burglary. “PMT, one among three offices of Dassault, broken into. Money was stolen from other offices,” the source said. A third source said the burglary looked like a diversion and the matter was of serious concern. “What kind of documents have been taken is yet to be ascertained,” the source said.

The police have been informed and a case has been registered, another source said. In September 2016, India signed a €7.87 billion Inter-Governmental Agreement with France for the purchase of 36 Rafale jets in a fly-away condition.

Man kills father ‘in fit of rage’, chops his body into pieces

Caught while trying to dispose of body

Policemen outside the residence of victim Sandesh Aggarwal Shiv Kumar Pushpakar SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

A 22-year-old eatery owner allegedly killed his father, cut his body into about 20 pieces and stuffed them in plastic bags. He was caught red-handed at his house in Shahdara’s Farsh Bazar area while trying to dispose of the body, with the help of a friend, in the early hours of Wednesday.

Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police (Shahdara) Ved Prakash Surya said the accused, Aman Aggarwal, and his friend Ayush have been arrested for their alleged involvement in the murder of Sandesh Aggarwal (48), who used to run a cosmetics shop on the ground floor of the building where he resided on the second floor.

Property issue

Sandesh’s brother Adesh, who runs a grocery store opposite his shop and owns the first floor of the building, said the family members of the victim – wife Kanchan, sons Aman, Ayush and daughter Sakshi – were also living on the second floor but separately for the last 10 years.

“The four of them [Kanchan, her sons and daughter] were after his [Sandesh’s] property. The second floor of the building is registered in the name of Sandesh and Kanchan. On the ground floor, Sandesh used to run his cosmetics shop while Aman had opened a café in a separate portion. His family wanted the entire shop and had severed relations with him over the matter,” he claimed.

It was Mr. Adesh who alerted the police on Tuesday night. He said he came to check on Sandesh around 10 p.m. but could not find him anywhere. When he asked Aman about his father he did not give a proper answer. “I went to check the CCTV cameras which I have installed on the first floor. I could see that Aman was lying about the time he came home and when he left. This made me suspicious and I called the police around 1 a.m.,” he said.

Worried about his brother’s absence, Mr. Adesh requested two beat officers on patrol duty in the lane to check Aman’s room but the latter did not allow them inside.

Around 2 a.m., when the police team arrived, Aman was allegedly caught putting the plastic bags containing his father’s body parts in his friend’s car.

During interrogation, Aman allegedly told the police that he killed his father in a fit of rage after the two got into an argument. “Aman said his father had a drinking problem and he used to physically abuse him since his childhood. He said Sandesh fought with him on Monday night after which he strangulated him and cut his body into pieces on Tuesday,” said a senior officer.

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