Congress writes to EC, objects to provision of postal ballots
The ministry of law and justice amended the conduct rules on June 19, on the recommendation of the Election Commission (EC), to allow senior citizens over the age of 65 to vote using postal ballots in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.Updated: Jul 04, 2020 04:21 IST
The Congress on Friday alleged that the government had not consulted any political parties, other than the ruling party, to amend the poll conduct rules ahead of the Bihar election.
The ministry of law and justice amended the conduct rules on June 19, on the recommendation of the Election Commission (EC), to allow senior citizens over the age of 65 to vote using postal ballots in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The manner in which this decision has been taken demonstrates a complete non-application of mind and a shocking circumvention of any consultation process with the key stakeholders (i.e; any other political parties other than the ruling regime). Even upon a cursory examination, the numerous legal deficiencies in this decision become apparent,” the party said in its representation.
The move comes after CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury had said that extending the postal ballot would give the ruling party an edge. The EC had responded to Yechury on Wednesday, stating that the chief electoral officer of Bihar had held consultations with various political parties before the decision was taken.
Senior leaders Ahmed Patel, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Kapil Sibal, KC Venugopal and Randeep Surjewala submitted the Congress representation. They have asked the EC to invoke its powers under Article 324 of the Constitution of India to withdraw the amendment.
The party has argued that the government has “failed to consider” that the allowing the exercise of postal ballot will violate the basic tenet of secrecy of the vote, increase the risk of Covid-19 transmission and expose voters to administrative influence.
“This Commission has lent its support to an amendment which exposes a high percentage of voters to organized administrative influence or influence by the Government or the ruling party or their agents or any number of individuals who shall be able to identify these individuals in advance (with ease) and influence how they vote without the protection of the secret ballot. Endangering the integrity of the voting process and undermining its sanctity in this fashion on a potentially massive scale is simply unacceptable,” states the representation.
EC officials told Hindustan Times that they had heard the party representation with an “open mind” and will consider their representation.
“Everyone is entitled to a viewpoint,” an official said on the condition of anonymity. “State and district-level talks were held before the decision was taken. This is an enabling provision.”
The official further added that same practice had been tested in the Jharkhand and Delhi elections. “No one opposed it, why now,” said the official.
Former chief election commissioner Vikram Sampath countered the Congress claim that extending the postal ballot will compromise the secrecy of the vote.
“The Commission will take adequate precautions to maintain the sanctity of the election,” he told HT. “There is nothing to fear.”
Sampath added that the EC visits a state that is going to polls three to four times before the elections are conducted. “They take the feedback of the political parties and only then issue any directives. No decision is taken arbitrarily.”
BJP spokesperson Sanjay Mayukh said, “The Congress has a habit of complaining. The EC is an independent body, they know what they are doing. The people of this country who have voted for Narendra Modi also have an independent view and have made an informed choice. Will the Congress complain against them too?