24/07/2019 9:00 AM IST

How Did A 2012 Rape Convict’s Photo End Up On A Punjab Voter Awareness Ad?

The ad was used in a Republic Day hoarding but made headlines only six months later because of a printer whose dues weren’t paid on time.

HuffPost India

Chandigarh: Punjab’s Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) is facing heat after news broke last week that the Hoshiarpur district administration used a photograph of Mukesh Kumar, one of the convicts in the 2012 gangrape and murder of a physiotherapy student in Delhi, in a voter awareness advertisement. 

HuffPost India has learnt that the advertisement was on a hoarding installed at the venue of a Republic Day function inside the district administration complex. 

That was more than six months ago, but the mistake was exposed just now because the printer whose payment was pending with the district administration approached a local journalist with the story, said people familiar with the matter.

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Punjab CEO Karuna Raju told HuffPost India that the error was made by a contractual employee who downloaded some photographs from the internet for the advertisement without recognising Kumar.

“The officials committed a blunder by downloading an unknown photograph from an unknown source and using it in Systematic Voters’ Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) activities. It has sent a wrong message,” said Raju, adding that it appeared that the advertisement was sent for printing by officials without checking the proof.

Kumar is currently lodged in Tihar Jail along with four others and is facing a death sentence. 

Asha Devi, the mother of the 23-year-old whose rape had led to unprecedented protests across the country, told HuffPost India that she was shocked at the way election officials in Punjab ‘glorified’ a rape convict.

“We are struggling for the last seven years to get justice,” she said, adding that the Election Commission has sent the “wrong message across the world”.

The Indian Express reported on Monday that the Election Commission had issued a notice to the Punjab CEO, and had asked for a report within a day. 

The Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) has also sought a reply from Raju after Asha Devi lodged a complaint with DCW along with a picture of the hoarding. The Commission has sought the names of the officials responsible and demanded strict action in the matter. 

After receiving flak, the Hoshiarpur district administration has now asked the concerned computer operator to reveal the source from where the picture was downloaded. 

CEO Raju said that as per rules, the officials should have used photographs of voters from the area. 

“As a common practice, we use three photographs including a common voter, a woman voter and the third from the LGBT community.  The officials should have chosen the actual voters from their own area,” said Raju, who has sought a detailed report from the Hoshiarpur Deputy Commissioner.