The Election Commission has informed the Supreme Court that it is open to the idea of printing photographs of contesting candidates in the ballot papers that are pasted on Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) so that voters do not get confused with namesakes.
In its affidavit, filed in response to public interest litigation (PIL), the poll body did not spell out when the proposed move would come into force. Election commission told the Supreme Court that it could affix the photographs subject to overcoming the space constraints on the ballot papers, which in several cases have long names of candidates. In some cases papers have to be printed in three languages, English, Hindi and regional.
As and when the proposed reform is enforced, it would be a major boost for the country’s electorate that predominantly has illiterate and semi-literate voters who often get confused with candidates having identical names in the fray. Political parties often make dummy candidates, having a name similar to that of the rival candidate, stand for elections to confuse the electorate.
SC is hearing a PIL filed by Delhi resident Ashok Gahlot seeking a direction to the EC to make it mandatory that the ballot paper affixed on the electronic voting machine (EVM) must carry the photograph of all the candidates with the respective party symbol.
EC counsel Amit Sharma told the bench that Gahlot’s suggestion was acceptable and that the poll body had recently held a meeting with the States’ chief electoral officers on the issue. “However, there are amongst others certain issues,’ which need to be addressed and considered in this connection,” he said, adding: “Space on the ballot paper was the major concern.”
A bench of Justices MY Eqbal and Kurien Joseph, however, directed the Centre to examine Gahlot’s suggestion and submit its stand on the issue.
According to the petitioner, since 2004 political parties are introducing dummy namesake candidates in the election to confuse the voters particularly in closely contested polls.
This, according to the petitioner was being done to confuse the voters, particularly the illiterate, semi literate and not so vigilant voters.