Election observers enjoy state-sponsored boat cruise, dinner

April 9th, 2009 - 7:22 pm ICT by IANS  

Panaji, April 9 (IANS) Three election observers, deputed by the Election Commission to ensure free and impartial polls in Goa, were treated to a complimentary boat cruise and dinner by state tourism department last weekend, sources said Thursday, though one observer said he knew nothing about it while another denied being on the junket.
The trip, on board the state-run cruise boat Santa Monica, for the three observers Chanchal Tewari (Indian Administrative Service), Masood Hassan (Indian Administrative Service) and T.C. Jose (Indian Revenue Service) and their liaison officer M. Olwatt April 4, has kicked off a storm with terse noting being exchanged between the state tourism department, which initiated the junket, and the Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC) which is now dithering from footing the bill.

When contacted, Tewari said that he “does not know anything about this”. Hassan, on the other hand, denied being a part of the junket. “You better clarify this with the tourism department,” he said.

Tourism department sources told IANS that the request for the junket for the three officials came from deputy director in the tourism department Pamela Mascarenhas, who called up the assistant manager at Santa Monica booking counter asking him to arrange a complimentary dinner and cruise.

“We do not give such complimentary tickets until the managing director of GTDC Benjamin Braganza clears it. But being a weekend he could not be contacted. So complimentary passes were given to the observers and their liaison officer,” a source said.

On Monday, however, the managing director in his noting said that the GTDC would not foot the bill and it would have to be paid by the tourism department.

“The act is highly objectionable and inappropriate, more so because the officials are attached to the Election Commission in Goa to conduct free and impartial polls,” the managing director’s note reads. IANS has a copy of the note.

A copy of the note has also been forwarded to the Election Commission.

Deputy Election Officer P.S. Meena, who wrote the letter to the GTDC chief seeking the complimentary passes, has been relieved of election duties, though a senior official said this was because he had some “urgent family work”.

The three observers were appointed to Goa by the Election Commission from a pool of senior bureaucrats to oversee the election process and ensure that the poll exercise is fair and impartial.

In the past, the apex court has taken serious view of state government funds being used for the entertainment of election observers, as it “would have serious impact on the impartiality of such observers”.

“This should be taken care of by the Election Commission and strict instructions should be given to observers not to accept undue hospitality of states because that would unnecessarily compromise their objectivity and transparency,” the Supreme court had said in a 2005 ruling.

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