The Election Commission has cited two specific provisions for suspending an IAS officer who checked PM Narendra Modi’s chopper in Odisha on 16 April.

Mohammed Mohsin, a Karnataka cadre IAS officer who was on duty as an election observer in Odisha’s Sambalpur district, was suspended with immediate effect for “dereliction of duty” and “acting contrary to the instructions of the Commission concerning SPG protectees”, a poll panel letter said.

The letter cites two instructions by the Election Commission regarding SPG protectees, which, according to the commission, Mohammed “has not acted in conformity with”.

However, the instructions mentioned in the letter appear to say nothing about the vehicle of an SPG protectee being exempt from any kind of checking during elections. The instructions pertain to the PM’s use of government vehicles during election campaigns, but mentions nothing about searches.

This incident assumes greater significance in light of a recent video that had surfaced in Karnataka’s Chitradurga on 9 April. A mysterious black trunk, reported to have been offloaded from PM Modi’s chopper, was whisked away into the trunk of a private car not part of the PM’s official convoy.

Also Read: Poll Officer Who ‘Checked’ Modi’s Chopper Suspended, Cong Hits Out

Reasons Cited for Suspension Don’t Add Up

What are the two instructions that have been cited and what do they say about searches inside vehicles of political personalities during election campaigning?

The letter mentions:

  1. Instruction No. 76/Instructions2019/EEPS/Vol ( Dated 22 March, 2019)
  2. Instruction No. 464/INST/2014/EPS (Dated 10 April, 2014)

Upon checking, the instruction from March 2019 refers to the same instruction issued in April 2014. Therefore, in effect, the reason for suspending Mohsin is based on the the one from April 2014.

So, what does the one from 10 April 2014 say?

The letter, titled “Consolidated instructions on use of vehicles during elections” pertains to a set of rules shared with the chief electoral officers of all states and union territories meant to “ensure a level playing field for all candidates” as well as “check the vitiating rule of money and misuse of official missionary”.

Importantly, the thrust of the instruction cited by the EC is contained in point 4 of the letter:

Instruction No. 464/INST/2014/EPS (Dated 10 April 2014)“The Commission directs that, subject to exceptions mentioned herein, there shall be a total and absolute ban, on the use of official vehicles for campaigning, electioneering or election related travel during elections.”

Point number 8 of the same instruction mentions that the “prime minister and other political personalities” “in view of extremist and terrorist activities and threat to their lives” are entitled to the use of government vehicles even during elections.

However, the 6 page instruction letter from 2014 mention nothing about searches of cars or helicopters of those under SPG protection.

The Congress tweeted about this on Thursday morning, 18 April, arguing that the provisions cited “DOES NOT exempt PM’s vehicle from being searched”.

Poll Observer Manual Says Nothing

The other relevant document – Observer Handbook, Volumes I and II, published by the EC, a ready reckoner of all the duties for officers serving as poll observers – has no specific instructions regarding searches on vehicles of SPG-protected political leaders.

Moreover, another important document – Compendium of Instructions, Volume I – has no mention of a bar on searching the PM’s vehicle either.

Mohsin Has Been Critical of Govt on Social Media

Mohsin, a 1996 batch IAS from Karnataka cadre, has been working for the Backward Class Welfare Department under the Government of Karnataka since June 2016.

Previously, he worked as the Managing Director and the CEO of the KSSIDC (Karnataka State Small Industries Development Corporation Ltd) and as the Commissioner for Public Instruction for the Department of School Education, Government of Karnataka.

He started off his 23-year-long career as an IAS officer as a Sub Divisional Magistrate of Kundapur district of Karnataka.

However, a perusal of his social media activity reveals posts that appear to be critical of the current government and the political dispensation. From jobs, Rafale, Pulwama attack, and government policies to the deaths of Gauri Lankesh and MM Kalburgi, Mohsin has been vocal about a variety of issues that the government or PM Modi have endured heavy criticism for.