Lok Sabha elections 2019: Supreme Court notices to Election Commission, Centre
The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Election Commission of India and the Centre to respond to a public interest petition that wants decriminalization of a rule under the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, that makes a complainant liable for prosecution if his or her complaint regarding the malfunctioning of a electronic voting machine (EVM) and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) is found to be false.
The case assumes significance in light of the numerous complaints against the two during the ongoing parliamentary elections. Monday marked the fourth phase of the seven-phase elections. A bench led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi issued notices on social activist Sunil Ahya’s petition that said such a rule would deter even bonafide complainants from lodging a complaint. Rule 49MA of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 read with section 177 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) criminalises false reporting of the deviant behavior of EVM or VVPAT.
Many opposition parties have alleged malfunctioning of EVMs in different parts of the county during the last four phases of polls. A plea by 21 opposition parties to match the output of 50% of VVPATs in a constituency with the EVM count was recently turned down by the top court, which, however, ordered the EC to increase the cross-examination of slips from VVPATs from one to five in every assembly constituency.
The Election Commission (EC), however, on Monday defended strict punishment and penalty for questioning Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), saying it is necessary to ensure that mischievous elements do not make false complaints.
Deputy Election Commissioner Sudeep Jain told the media that after any complaint is raised against the functioning of EVMs — where slip generated by the voter verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) machine shows that vote has gone to the wrong candidate — the electoral process is stopped.