Electoral Reforms In India

Supreme Court seeks ECs reply on voter prosecution


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Issues over EVM

  • The Supreme Court has sought the Election Commission’s response on a plea which sought striking down of a provision in election rules that envisages prosecution of an elector if a complaint alleging malfunctioning of EVMs and VVPATs cannot be proven.

49MA of the Conduct of Elections Rules

  • 49MA of the Conduct of Elections Rules is sought unconstitutional as it criminalised reporting of malfunctioning of EVM or VVPATs.
  • The plea contended that the onus of proving an allegation cannot be on a voter when machines used for voting showed ‘arbitrary deviant behaviour’.
  • The plea sought direction to the EC to register a complaint of any deviant behaviour of equipment used in the election process while pointing out that the burden of proof rests on the elector at the moment.
  • One risks criminal charges even if the complaint is correct as the machines need not repeat its arbitrary behavior for a second consecutive time.
  • When an elector is asked to cast a test vote, under Rule 49MA, s/he may not get the same result because of a pre-programmed deviant behaviour of EVMs, the plea said.

Then who will report malfunctioning?

  • In the course of reporting deviant behaviour of an electronic machine used in the election process, an elector has to cast two votes; first one in secrecy and the second a test vote in the presence of the candidates or polling agents.
  • A test vote cast subsequently in the presence of others cannot become a conclusive evidence of the deviant behaviour or otherwise of the previous vote cast in absolute secrecy.

Voters need security against persecution. Why?

  • Holding an elector accountable for deviant behaviours of EVMs and VVPATs could deter them from making a complaint, essential for improving the process.
  • This may also create an illusion of free and fair elections, whereas the fact would be that people have simply not come forward to lodge complaints.
  • Since only an elector could be a witness to the secrecy of his vote cast, it would violate Article 20(3) of the Constitution which says that no person accused of an offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself.
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