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Supreme Court Issues Notice to EC on Plea Challenging Jail Term for Questioning EVMs

The Supreme Court issued the notice on a petition seeking the decriminalisation of the act of filing complaints regarding discrepancies between EVMs and VVPATs.


Updated:April 29, 2019, 2:41 PM IST
Supreme Court Issues Notice to EC on Plea Challenging Jail Term for Questioning EVMs
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New Delhi:The Supreme Court on Monday issued a notice to the Election Commission on a plea challenging the legal provision mandating six months jail if a complaint against the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) turns out false.

The notice was issued on Monday as 72 Lok Sabha constituencies across nine states go to polls in the fourth phase of Lok Sabha elections.

Recently, a retired senior police official said he found certain discrepancy in VVPAT but did not have the courage to complain as falsity of such complaint would have led to imprisonment and heavy fine.

According to section 49 MA of Code Of Election Rules, if a person files a complaint regarding the discrepancy (voted for a particular party but it went to some other party) regarding the EVM, and, if after investigation this is found to be false or incorrect, then the complainant can be prosecuted under section 177 of IPC for "furnishing false information. This section invites six months in jail or a Rs 1,000 fine or both".

Petitioner Sunil Ahya contended before the court that such a clause deters an elector from reporting any discrepancies observed at the time of casting vote. "Deviant behaviour and lodging a complaint which is an essential ingredient in a continuous exercise for improving the electoral process," said the petitioner.

On April 23, standing outside a polling booth in Guwahati, former DGP and well-known Assamese writer Harekrishna Deka had complained about the malfunctioning of the VVPAT, saying: “Even though I pressed the button for a certain candidate, the VVPAT registered it under some other candidate.”

“I challenged (it), asked him (the polling officer) why this happened. He said I could challenge it by paying Rs 2, but added that if I made a false complaint, I would be punished for six months. I do not want to take the risk. In what manner will you prove it?” Deka said.

State chief electoral officer (CEO) Mukesh Sahu had said that Deka can prove the allegations by declaring to the presiding officer. “The presiding officer will give him a form where he will have to declare that his statement is true. If found false, action will be taken,” Sahu was quoted as saying by news magazine InsideNE, “If he gives that declaration, he will have to show by giving a test vote [to prove] what he is saying is true. The form number is 49 (MA).”

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