As Assam went to polls in the third phase of the Lok Sabha elections, former Assam DGP Hare Krishna Deka complained of a VVPAT error at the polling booth in Lachitnagar Lower Primary School and said that the VVPAT slip showed a different name than the candidate he voted for.
However, he was admonished that if he lodged a complaint, which later turned out to be false, he could face six months in prison. Deka revealed that this deterred him from filing a complaint.
“The presiding officer told me my vote could not be cancelled. I would have to pay Rs 2 for challenging the discrepancy, after which an inquiry would be initiated on the basis of my complaint. If deemed false, I would face six months’ imprisonment or have to pay a fine of Rs 10, 000,” he told News18.
Ex-Assam DGP Harekrishna Deka: My polling booth was Lachit Nagar LP School. When I voted,VVPAT displayed someone else's name.I was told I can challenge it but if complaint is found to be false I'll be punished.I don't want to take risk. How do I know how will it be proven? (23.4) pic.twitter.com/gIifM4DMA2— ANI (@ANI) April 23, 2019
Deka, an award winning Sahitya Akedemi poet and critic, said that the stiff fine and prison term compels the voter to not seek remedy in case of an error with the VVPAT machine. " Nobody would initiate criminal proceeding for raising a complain. This intimidation is wrong. It is every citizen's democratic right to cast their vote according to their choice and its sad to see it getting violated," he said.
However, according to a report in the Times of India, a senior official at Assam CEO’s office blamed the former DGP for not following protocol, as laid down by the EC. “Deka did not bring up his grievance with higher officials in the election department,” he was quoted as saying.
According to the EC’s manual on the use of EVMs and VVPA, a complaint of wrong printing by VVPAT has to be reported to the presiding officer, who “will take a declaration explaining that if found false he (the complainant) can be penalized”. The presiding officer will then record the complaint and allow the complainant to cast a test vote in the presence of the presiding officer and polling agents.
If the complaint is found to be valid, the presiding officer will stop polling and report to the returning officer. “Since the introduction of VVPATs, more than 18 crore voters have cast their votes ... & ONLY 1 (one) complaint received ... which was also FOUND TO BE FALSE,” the manual adds.
A political slugfest erupted over the use of VVPATs after twenty-one opposition once again approached the Supreme Court on Wednesday, asking it to review the order on counting of voter slips of only five EVM machines in every assembly segment. The parties have once again demanded that at least 50 per cent of VVPAT slips be cross-checked.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, who has been at the forefront of this fight, said democracy the review petition has been filed as democracy cannot be left at the mercy of some EVM programmers.
EVM glitches have marred the Lok Sabha election process in the first three phases of voting held till now. While polling in Andhra Pradesh continued till well past midnight on April 11 due to malfunctioning machines, over 300 faulty EVMs had to be replaced in Rampur in UP on Tuesday.
VVPATs are being used for the first time in a Lok Sabha election after they were first used in the Assembly Elections last year.
Naidu said instances of EVMs malfunctioning and selective manipulation of the machines were reported in the polling held on Tuesday in Kerala, Goa and Uttar Pradesh