Electoral Reforms In India

SC refuses to issue Interim order on Voter data     


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Form 17C

Mains level: Why did SC Refuse the request?

Why in the news?

On May 24, the Supreme Court rejected an [Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR)] NGO’s request for the Election Commission of India to upload authenticated, scanned, and legible copies of Form 17C, which details the booth-wise account of votes recorded after each phase of Lok Sabha elections.

About the Application Filed by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR):

  • ADR sought an order directing the Election Commission of India (ECI) to upload authenticated, scanned, and legible copies of Form 17C, which shows the account of votes recorded booth-wise after each phase of polling in Lok Sabha elections.
  • ADR highlighted concerns regarding the delay in publishing final voter turnout data and the significant revisions in voter turnout percentages, which raised public suspicions and apprehensions about the accuracy of the data.

Why did the Supreme Court refuse to issue interim order on voter data?

  • Timing of the Elections: The Supreme Court refused the plea on May 24, stating that the nation was in the middle of the General Elections and at the moment of the sixth phase of polling.
  • Diverting the attention: The court acknowledged the mammoth nature of the elections, which require vast human resources. Diverting the attention of the Election Commission during this critical period was not deemed appropriate.
  • Ongoing Petition: The interim relief sought by ADR was already part of a relief sought in a petition pending since 2019. Granting interim relief at this stage would effectively mean providing final relief in the ongoing writ petition.
  • Already decided in previous judgments: Senior advocate Maninder Singh for the EC argued that ADR’s application was unfounded.
    • It aimed at discrediting the EC, invoking the concept of constructive res judicata, implying that issues already decided in previous judgments (like EVM-VVPAT case) cannot be re-litigated in the middle of an election process.

About the Role of the Judiciary During Election Polls:

  • Non-Interference During Elections: The Supreme Court emphasized that it should not interfere with the conduct of elections, which are managed by the Election Commission, during the polling process.
  • Enhancing Conduct of Polls: The judiciary’s role is to enhance the conduct of elections rather than interrupt or interfere in ongoing electoral processes.
  • Ground Reality Awareness: The judiciary must be conscious of the practical realities and complexities involved in the conduct of elections, ensuring that its actions do not disrupt the democratic process.

Conclusion: The Supreme Court’s refusal to entertain ADR’s application highlights the judiciary’s cautious approach in intervening in electoral processes, especially during ongoing elections, to maintain the integrity and smooth functioning of the democratic exercise. The court seeks to balance the need for transparency and fairness in elections with the practicalities and operational challenges faced by the Election Commission.

Mains PYQ: 

Q To enhance the quality of democracy in India the Election Commission of India has proposed electoral reforms in 2016. What are the suggested reforms and how far are they significant to make democracy successful? (UPSC IAS/2017)

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