SC seeks EC reply on plea by 21 opposition leaders for verification of 50 pc VVPAT slips

The Supreme Court Friday agreed to hear the plea of 21 opposition leaders, led by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, seeking that VVPAT slips of at least 50 per cent of voting machines in each assembly constituency be checked randomly in the Lok Sabha elections.

The leaders from six national and 15 regional parties, claiming to represent 70-75 per cent of the population, have also sought the setting aside of the Election Commission of India (EC) guideline on random verification of one assembly seat.

A bench, headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said that notice be issued to the EC, and the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) should depute an officer to assist the court in the matter.

The bench, also comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna, posted the matter for further hearing on March 25 and asked the ECI to file its reply in two weeks.

The parties include the Congress, Nationalist Congress Party, Aam Aadmi Party, CPI (Marxist), CPI, Trinamool Congress, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Rashtriya Lok Dal, Loktantrik Janata Dal and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK).

“The petitioners are presidents/ leaders of 21 different national and regional political parties (six out of seven national parties and 15 regional parties) across the country electorally representing about 70-75 percent of the people of India,” the plea said.

It has sought quashing of the EC guideline which provides that random verification of Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips shall be conducted in one polling stations in case of assembly election and in each assembly segment in case of Lok Sabha election.

The plea also sought, “a further direction to the election commission for random verification of at least 50 per cent electronic voting machines (EVM) using the VVPAT per assembly segment/ assembly constituency”.

The plea referred to the 1975 verdict of apex court in the case of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, which held that free and fair elections are part of the basic structure of the Constitution of India.

It also referred to the 2013 verdict of Supreme court in the case of BJP leader Subramanian Swamy where it was held that paper trail for EVM are an “indispensable requirement” for free and fair elections.

“The impugned guideline issued by Respondent No.2 (Election Commission of India) hits at the basic structure of the Constitution by making VVPAT completely ineffective and merely ornamental in nature as it translates to an actual check on less than 0.44 per cent of EVMs in the country.

“The said Guideline, therefore, defeats the entire purpose of introducing VVPAT and renders the judgment and directions passed by this court completely otiose,” it said.

The plea further stated that the guideline amounts to taking away from the left hand what was given by the right and reduce the safeguards and substantive essence of the judgments of this Court to a nullity.

“The petitioners submit that a procedural or executive instruction in the form of guidelines cannot render the main substantive safeguard nugatory, more so where the latter traces itself back not only to a Constitutional provision but, indeed, to the basic structure of the Constitution,” it said.

The plea further stated that the directions are being sought for giving effect to the judgment of this court declaring VVPAT as “integral and intrinsic to free and fair elections which, in turn are part of the basic structure of the Constitution of India”.

Naidu, the lead petitioner, had declared in February that the parties will be moving the apex court against the use of EVMs.

The move comes after the leaders of the opposition parties met at NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s residence.

The parties had raised apprehensions in a meeting with the EC in February about the credibility of EVMs, although the poll panel has denied allegations of machines being tampered with.

The EC, while announcing the Lok Sabha election schedule, had said that mandatory checking of EVMs and VVPAT will be done on the basis of one polling station for each Lok Sabha constituency.

Earlier, Kamal Nath and Sachin Pilot last year had approached the apex court for conducting VVPAT verification at least 10 per cent of randomly selected polling booths in each assembly constituency to ensure free and fair elections in MP and Rajasthan last year.

However, the apex court, which was dealing with other poll issues ahead of the assembly polls in MP and Rajasthan had refused to go into the VVPAT issue in its judgement delivered on October 12, 2018 saying these issues were dealt by the apex court in earlier petitions and orders have been passed.

Hastinapur land grab scam: Court cancels lease to 72

Hastinapur land grab scam: Court cancels lease to 72
Hastinapur land grab scam: Court cancels lease to 72

A local court has cancelled leases granted to 72 persons, including a son of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader, on land in Hastinapur Sanctuary area, saying it is a government property.

The Revenue Court here on Thursday declared as illegal the allotments of several hectares of land to all 72 persons, including Shivani Saini, son of BSP Rajya Sabha member Rajpal Singh Saini, and ruled that the land “cannot be allowed to be leased” out.

Additional District Magistrate Ram Kishan Sharma said a fraudulent co-operative society, led by Shivani Saini, had been set up to the get the lease.

Last month, a revenue clerk allegedly involved in Hastinapur sanctuary land grab scam had been dismissed from service by the district authorities here.

Several people, including revenue clerks, have been booked on charges of grabbing government land worth several crores of rupees at Hastinapur sanctuary in Majlispurtaufeer village in Uttar Pradesh.

Many cases have been registered in different police stations against the alleged encroachment in 27 villages in the district.

Argument on charges against BSP MP to be heard Saturday

ggA court here fixed Saturday to hear argument on charges in a case against Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) MP Dhananjay Singh and his wife for torturing their maid, leading to her death.

Additional Sessions Judge Lokesh Kumar Sharma Friday posted the argument on charges for Saturday.

Police will likely to submit a report on the compliance of an earlier order by a magisterial court in November 2013, where the judge directed them to protect the witnesses in the case.

The MP’s counsel S.P.M. Tripathi, while requesting the court to release his client on bail, has told the court last month that the witnesses were already granted protection by police and there was no chance for his client to influence them.

The court had however rejected the bail plea of the MP, accused of destroying evidence to shield his wife, who was arrested for torturing her maid leading to her death.

It had said the position of victims was weaker as compared to the accused and intimidation of witnesses could not be ruled out.

Dhananjay Singh, sitting MP from Uttar Pradesh’s Jaunpur, was charge-sheeted Feb 1 along with his wife Jagriti for various offences, including destroying evidence and abetting murder and attempt to murder.

The BSP leader and his wife, who is a dental surgeon in a government hospital here, were arrested in November 2013 and are currently in judicial custody.


Allahabad HC rejects petition of ex-UP minister in disproportionate assets case

The petition of former Uttar Pradesh minister and Bahujan Samaj Party leader Rakeshdhar Tripathi has rejected by the Allahabad High court in disproportionate assets case.

The petition of the ex-minister has rejected by the division bench consisting of Justices Dharnidhar Jha and Pankaj Naqvi which was filed against vigilance department probe into his disproportionate assets case.

The court has also rejected a stay on his arrest.

Mr Tripathi alleged that he was being trapped into the matter by Samajwadi Party MLA Vijay Mishra.



Plea on political donations to be heard Sep 26

The chief information commissioner (CIC) will Sep 26 hear a plea asking political parties to give out information on donations received by them, said NGO Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) Saturday.

The ADR approached the CIC in March 2011 as save for the Communist Party of India (CPI), no other national political party had provided information on its largest donors and the manner of such donations, said a release from the NGO.

“All national political parties, except for the CPI, declined to give the information on their largest donors,” said ADR.

It said while the CPI provided information about their largest donors, their addresses and the mode of payment of these donations other political parties either didn’t reply or simply said they did not come under the right to information (RTI), said the NGO.

The CPI said it was a public authority as the organisation was substantially financed directly or indirectly by government funds.

The Indian National Congress, however, returned the RTI letter saying that it did not come under the RTI, said the ADR.

While the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party did not respond to the RTI application, the Nationalist Congress Party said it didn’t have enough manpower to provide the information.

The Communist Party of India-Marxist also returned the RTI application, said ADR.

The NGO said leaders of all political parties maintained that they were committed to transparency and probity in their functioning.

“These replies bring to the fore the biggest farce that our democracy is plagued with – the opaque functioning of political parties with no space for engagement with the citizens and no willingness to open themselves to public scrutiny,” said ADR.