The Leh district election officer on Friday wrote to the Indian Army on a complaint raised by a candidate alleging malpractice in the electronic postal ballot system by commanding officers.

In a letter addressed to the general officer commanding, 14 Corps, District Election Officer Avny Lavasa said the complainant alleged that commanding officers had asked soldiers for their voting preferences over the phone instead of providing them the ballot paper to cast their vote.

Ladakh went to polls on May 6 in the fifth phase of the Lok Sabha elections. The Army’s 14 Corps defends the Line of Control with Pakistan and the Line of Actual Control with China, PTI reported.

“This is a gross violation of the secrecy of voting and malpractice that has the potential to invite strict legal action,” Lavasa said in the letter. “In this context, it is requested that all the concerned officers may be sensitised about the issue and the sanctity of election process maintained.”

Colonel Rajesh Kalia, defence spokesperson at Srinagar, said preliminary investigations indicated that the complaints are unfounded and appeared to have been made to tarnish the image of Army, ANI reported. “Army remains apolitical and we hold this value in letter and spirit,” he said, adding that an “in-depth investigation” is under way to find details in “an impartial manner”.

Kalia said Independent candidates Sajjad Hussain and Asgar Ali Karbalai had raised complaints on the postal ballot system. “No specific instances have been mentioned in the complaints,” Kalia said.

The defence spokesperson said authorities in the Army have been requested to sensitise the concerned officers about the procedures of the postal ballot system, according to ANI.

Sajjad Hussain’s complaint said that superior officers in a unit either retain postal ballots sent by the district election office or do not deliver it to individual service voters, DNA reported. “In most cases the superior officer due to limited time himself exercise the proxy votes on behalf of the individual without legal authority,” the complaint said.