The Election Commission in March allowed the Delhi police to check electoral rolls for the North East Delhi parliamentary constituency to identify those involved in the riots in February, according to a letter to the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO).

A photo of the letter from the EC to the Delhi CEO on March 12 was shared by activist Saket Gokhale on Twitter on Monday. He alleged the EC “broke its own rules & shared photos & addresses of all residents of NE Delhi with the police after the February 2020 pogrom”.

In response to the CEO’s letter on March 6, the EC wrote back saying the “electoral database of the entire AC [Assembly constituency]/district should not be shared with the police authorities in accordance with the Commission’s prevailing policy and practice.”

However, keeping in mind the Delhi police’s request for electoral roll with photos of electors of North-East, Shahdara and East Delhi districts to match with the images of culprits as seen in CCTV footage, the EC allowed the CEO to ‘display’ the electoral roll with photos in his office to the investigating officers.

Also read: Ground Zero | When the Centre cannot hold — on communal fault lines, state apathy and hope that lingers amidst despair

A top EC official said the decision was in accordance with the Commission’s rule not to hand over the photo electoral database as the police were allowed to view it at the CEO’s office.

In a statement, the EC said its 2008 guidelines regarding sharing the electoral roll with government agencies were followed. The guidelines state that the database with photos can be shared with government departments by special permission of the EC on a case by case basis due to “citizen privacy issues”.

“It is hereby clarified in view of the anecdotal reports which are not based on empirical facts that the Commission has not in any way deviated from the original guidelines of 2008 and clarificatory orders of 2020 in any manner,” the EC statement said.

The EC said criminal investigations could be challenged in court.

“It also needs to be stated that as far as criminal investigations by regulatory departments/enforcement agencies is concerned, it is under their own extant Acts, Rules and guidelines, which in any case can be challenged in the Hon’ble Courts of law. In fact, the entire super structure of criminal justice system is erected on this,” the EC said.

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