The Bengaluru Bench of the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) on Thursday stayed the suspension of Karnataka cadre IAS officer Mohammed Mohsin by the Election Commission (EC) for inspecting the helicopter of Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Sambalpur in Odisha on April 16 as an election observer.
"The suspension order issued by the EC cannot, on the face of it, lie. It is hereby stayed. The applicant will be eligible to re-join his former position under the government of Karnataka without any further ado about it," said Tribunal Member K.B. Suresh in the order.
Modi was on an election tour in the eastern state for the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) candidates contesting in the Lok Sabha and the state Assembly elections being held in four phases from April 11 to April 29.
Interestingly, in another order on April 20, the poll panel said the headquarters of 48-year-old Mohsin will be the office of the Chief Electoral Officer of Karnataka in Bengaluru in place of Sambalpur.
Mohsin, however, reported to Bengaluru on April 23, when polling for the remaining 14 Lok Sabha seats in the western and northern regions of the southern state was held.
Staying the suspension, the Tribunal said the charge against Mohsin was he checked the chopper though the Prime Minister was exempted from it under the Z-plus security category of the Special Protection Group (SPG).
"The applicant (Mohsin) claims that he had advised the accompanying officials to videograph the process with the advice of the SPG officials. The SPG, however, complained to the EC that the SPG protectees must be exempt from such intrusions into their private life," observed the member.
Noting that even the SPG protectees were not eligible for anything and everything, the Tribunal cited a news report indicating that heavy packages were taken away from the Prime Minister's cavalcade into another vehicle and sped away in another vehicle in Karnataka.
The Congress asked the poll panel to probe the incident that occurred on April 11 when Modi flew to Chitradurga in a chopper to address a massive BJP poll rally.
"Questions were raised about it but no action followed. The petitioner's contention is election officials have even checked vehicles of Karnataka Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy more than once and no action followed," the member observed.
The Tribunal posted the matter for further hearing on June 3.