SC Issues Notice On Plea By 21 Political Parties For 50% VVPAT Verification

The Supreme Court today issued notice on a petition filed by leaders from 21 political parties seeking a direction to the Election Commission of India(ECI) to randomly verify at least 50 per cent votes using Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trails (VVPATs) in the polls to 17th Lok Sabha. The bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi has asked the ECI to give its response on March 25. The petition also challenges the decision of ECI to verify VVPAT of only one randomly selected booth of a constituency. The petitioners say that this will account only for 0.44% of the votes polled. This guideline defeats the entire purpose of VVPAT and makes the same “ornamental” without actual substance, they state.

The petition refers to the decision in Dr. Subramanian Swamy v ECI (2013) 10 SCC 500 which held that VVPAT is an “indispensable requirement of free and fair elections”. To give meaningful effect to this judgment, at least 50% of VVPAT should be verified. Also Read – When Interpretation Of ‘Text Mode Document’ Turned Fate Of Kamal Nath’s Plea In MP Polls Case [Read Judgment] “A 50% randomised verification in each assembly constituency/assembly segment is a reasonable sample size to both (a) allay the fears of the general public with regard to EVM tampering and; (b) be a statistically significant sample size to ensure that EVMs are working properly,” the plea said.

VVPAT is a paper slip generated by the Electronic Voting Machine everytime a voter casts his vote, recording the party to whom the vote was made. This is kept in a sealed cover to be opened only in case of a future dispute. The ECI had informed the Court in 2017 that VVPAT will be used 100% in future elections. However, the decision taken by the ECI in July 2018 was to verify VVPAT of a randomly selected polling station from a constituency. The petitioners are : N Chandrababu Naidu (TDP) Sharad Pawar (NCP) K C Venugopal (INC) Derek O Brien (TMC) Sharad Yadav (LTJD) Akhilesh Yadav (SP) Satish Chandra Mishra (BSP) M K Stalin (DMK) T K Ranga Rajan (CPI(M)) S Sudhakar Reddu (CPI) Manoj Kumar Jha (RJD) Arvind Kejriwal (AAP) Farookh Abdullah (NC) K Danish Ali (RJD) Ajith Singh (RLD) M Badrudding Ajmal (AIUDF) Jithin Ram Manji (Hindusthani Awam Morcha) Ashok Kumar Singh (JVM) Khorrum Anis Omar (IUML) Prof.Kodanadram (Telengana Jana Samithi) K G Kenye (Naga Peoples Front)

 

 

Supreme Court Curious About Fate Of Persons Whose Name Appears In Electoral Roll But Not In Final NRC .

“The question that looms large and what the Court would like to be informed about is the precise relationship between the final N.R.C. which is due to be published on 31.7.2019 and the electoral rolls.” What would be fate of the persons whose names appear in the electoral roll but are not included in the final NRC?, a curious Supreme Court bench asked the Election Commission of India on Tuesday. The bench comprising Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Sanjiv Khanna observed that this question has ‘great significance for the future’. “Notwithstanding the contours of the present writ petition, the question that looms large and what the Court would like to be informed about is the precise relationship between the final N.R.C. which is due to be published on 31.7.2019 and the electoral rolls”, the bench said directing the ECI to file an affidavit within two weeks.

The bench was considering a writ petition filed by Gopal Seth raising allegation of deletion of the names of the petitioners from the voters’ list on the basis of their names not appearing in the draft N.R.C. As there was no representation of ECI during the last posting, the bench had directed personal appearance of its Secretary.

Mallay Mallick, ECI Secretary appeared before the bench on Tuesday and had an interaction with the bench. Senior Advocate Vikas Singh, who appeared for ECI, denied the allegations made in the writ petition and submitted that, at no point of time, the names of the petitioners have been deleted from the electoral roll. In this regard, the bench has asked ECI to file an affidavit within seven days. Posting the matter on 28th March, the bench further directed ECI: “We further direct the Election Commission of India to inform the Court the details with regard to the revision of electoral rolls under the provisions of the Representation of the People Act, 1950 in the State of Assam with reference to 1.1.2017, 1.1.2018 and 1.1.2019 indicating the precise number of names included and deleted from the electoral roll in the aforesaid exercises of revision of electoral rolls.”

 

Plea in SC to nullify polls if maximum voters opt for NOTA

Plea in SC to nullify polls if maximum voters opt for NOTA
Plea in SC to nullify polls if maximum voters opt for NOTA

A plea has been moved in the Supreme Court to direct the poll panel to nullify an election result and conducting of fresh poll if the maximum votes are for NOTA in a particular constituency.

The petition, which is likely to come up for hearing next week, has also sought a direction to the Election Commission of India (ECI) to restrict those candidates and political parties, whose election have been nullified, from taking part in the fresh polls.

“The right to reject and elect a new candidate will give power to the people to express their discontent. If voters are dissatisfied with background or performance of the contesting candidate, they will opt for NOTA (none of the above) to reject such candidate and elect a new candidate,” the petition filed by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay said.

The petition, which sought direction from the apex court for decriminalisation and decommunalisation of politics, said the right to reject would check corruption, casteism, criminalisation and communalism as the political parties would be forced to give tickets to good candidates.

The Right to Reject was first proposed by the Law Commission in its 170th report in 1999 as part of its ‘Alternative Method of Election’. It had also suggested that the contesting candidates should be declared elected only if they have obtained 51 per cent of all valid votes.

The PIL has also sought a direction to the Centre and the ECI to cancel the illegal, forged, fabricated Elector Identity Card and take action against the holders.

The plea wanted the Union government to implement the Law Commission recommendations to ensure free and fair polls.

( Source – PTI )

Plea in SC to protect Election Commissioners from removal

Plea in SC to protect Election Commissioners from removal
Plea in SC to protect Election Commissioners from removal

A petition has been moved in the Supreme Court seeking constitutional protection to Election Commissioners (ECs) by bringing their removal procedure on par with that of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC).

The PIL has also sought direction to the Centre to provide an independent secretariat to the Election Commission of India (ECI) and declare its expenditure as charged from the Consolidated Fund of India.

The plea filed by Delhi BJP spokesperson and advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay has sought directions to the Centre to take appropriate steps to confer rule-making authority status on the ECI, similar to the powers vested in the apex court, to empower it to make election-related rules and code of conduct.

The ECI is a permanent constitutional body established in 1950 and consists of the CEC and two Election Commissioners.

The CEC and the ECs have a tenure of six years, or up to the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier, and enjoy the same status and receive salary and perks as available to Judges of the Supreme Court of India.

However, the CEC can be removed from office only through impeachment by Parliament but Article 324(5) does not provide similar protection to the ECs. It merely says that the ECs cannot be removed from office except on the recommendation of the CEC.

“To provide same and similar protection to both the Election Commissioners so that they shall not be removed from their office except in the like manner and on the like grounds as the Chief Election Commissioner.

“The CEC and the ECs enjoy the same decision-making powers which is suggestive of the fact that their powers are at par with each other. However, Article 324(5) does not provide similar protection to the ECs and it merely says that the ECs cannot be removed from office except on the recommendation of the CEC,” the petition said.

The petition also pointed out that the protection granted to the CEC was to ensure autonomy to the ECI from external pressure.

“However, rationale behind not affording similar protection to ECs is not explicable. The element of independence sought to be achieved under the Constitution is not exclusively for an individual alone but for the institution.

“Hence, autonomy to the ECI can only be strengthened if the ECs are also provided with the similar protection as that of the CEC,” it added.

( Source – PTI )

SC to hear plea by Congress party on Gujarat polls

SC to hear plea by Congress party on Gujarat polls
SC to hear plea by Congress party on Gujarat polls

The Supreme Court today agreed to hear this month end a plea by the Congress party seeking directions to the Election Commission of India (ECI) to frame guidelines for counting of votes through VVPAT machines in the upcoming Gujarat Assembly poll and other elections.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud sought the assistance of Attorney General K K Venugopal in the matter which is to be heard on October 30.

Prakash Joshi, secretary of All India Congress Committee, has moved the top court seeking a direction to the EC to install CCTV cameras inside the polling booth to watch the “mobility of persons inside”.

During the hearing, senior lawyers Kapil Sibal and Vivek Tankha, appearing for him, told the bench that this matter was required to be heard expeditiously as dates for the Gujarat Assembly elections were expected to be declared soon.

“Let a copy of the petition be served to the central agency so that we can have assistance of Attorney General,” the bench said.

The petition said the poll panel should be directed not to post any official, who is facing any inquiry or disciplinary proceedings, in key positions in the districts on contract basis or on extension of time from services.

The plea said they had made representations to the EC in raising these issues but no decision was taken by it.

It has also sought the apex court’s direction to the poll panel not to disturb the voters’ list without notice to the voters as well as the concerned political parties.

“…issue direction to install CCTV cameras inside the polling booth to watch the mobility of persons inside the polling booth and such videograph has to be displayed along with the number of votes poll, outside the polling booth on a display board,” the plea said.

The plea has said the Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee had initially given a representation to the state election commission on September 21 expressing concern specifically regarding the comparison of electronic results with the paper trail results.

It said thereafter, another representation was filed on September 22 raising several issues, including framing of rules and guidelines for counting of votes through the Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines.

The plea said the party had suggested to the poll panel to increase the visibility time of VVPAT paper trail from 7 to 13 seconds and hold random checks of the VVPAT machines.

It also said there should be video recording of paper trail prints which should be preserved for 120 days.

The plea said that though the EC said it would look into these issues, no decision has been conveyed to them so far.

In August, the EC had told the apex court that it would be able to conduct the Gujarat assembly elections using Electronic Voting Machines with paper trail.

The EC had told this to the court which was hearing a separate petition seeking direction for use of VVPAT machines in Gujarat Assembly polls.

( Source – PTI )

PIL in SC to bar people from contesting polls from two seats

PIL in SC to bar people from contesting polls from two seats
PIL in SC to bar people from contesting polls from two seats

A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking to restrict candidates from contesting elections for the same office simultaneously from more than one constituency.

The PIL has also sought a direction to the Centre and the Election Commission of India (ECI) to take appropriate steps to discourage independent candidates from contesting Parliament and state assembly elections.

The petition, filed by Delhi BJP spokesperson and advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, sought to declare as invalid and ultra-virus section 33(7) of the Representation of the People (RP) Act, which allows a person to contest a general election or a group of bye-elections or biennial elections from two constituencies.

“When a candidate contests from two seats, it is imperative that he has to vacate one of the two seats if he wins both. This, apart from the consequent unavoidable financial burden on the public exchequer, government manpower and other resources for holding bye-election against the resultant vacancy, is also an injustice to the voters of the constituency which the candidate is quitting from,” it said.

It also said that in July 2004, the Chief Election Commissioner had urged the then Prime Minister for amendment of Section 33(7) of the RP Act to provide that a person cannot contest from more than one constituency for the same office simultaneously.

“The ECI alternatively suggested that if existing provisions are retained, then the candidate contesting from two seats should bear the cost of the bye-election to the seat that the contestant decides to vacate in the event of his/her winning both seats,” it said, adding that the Centre has not taken appropriate steps in this regard till date.

It also sought to discourage independent candidates from contesting elections, saying they were often connected with the issue of “fragmented voting” and instability in the electoral system.

( Source – PTI )

PIL on political funding: SC asks govt, poll panel to respond

PIL on political funding: SC asks govt, poll panel to respond
PIL on political funding: SC asks govt, poll panel to respond

The Supreme Court today sought the responses of the government and the Election Commission of India (ECI) on a PIL challenging the recent changes in laws on funding of political parties and alleging that these “legitimise electoral corruption”.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud issued notice to the Centre and the poll panel on the plea, which also alleged that the changes would bring opacity into Indian politics and open the doors “to unlimited political donations”.

Through the petition, an NGO has challenged the amendments made to the Reserve Bank of India Act, the Representation of the People (RP) Act, the Income Tax Act, the Companies Act and the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) by the Finance Acts of 2016 and 2017.

The NGO, Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), has claimed in its plea that the amendments have removed the cap on political donations by companies and legalised anonymous donations by introducing the use of electoral bonds which can be issued by any scheduled bank for the purpose of funding any party.

It said that by amending the RP Act, the donations made by way of electoral bonds are exempted from disclosure to the ECI and claimed that this would “adversely affect electoral transparency and encourage corrupt practices in politics”.

The PIL contended that the amendment to the Companies Act has not only removed the earlier cap of 7.5 per cent of a company’s average three-year net profit for political donations, but a corporate entity now is no longer required to name the parties to which they make contributions.

“The companies are no longer required to disclose the break-up of contributions made to different political parties.

Removal of the statutory ceiling of 7.5 per cent of average profits on donation to political parties now enables even loss-making companies to make donations of any amount to political parties out of their capital or reserves.

“Further, it opens up the possibility of companies being brought into existence by unscrupulous elements primarily for routing funds to political parties through anonymous and opaque instruments like electoral bonds,” the petition has claimed.

ADR, represented by advocate Prashant Bhushan, has also said that by amending the FCRA, foreign companies with Indian subsidiaries have been allowed to fund political parties.

It has contended that this would expose Indian politics and democracy to international lobbyists who may want to further their agenda.

Apart from challenging the amendments, the petition has also opposed the method by which the amendments were carried out as money bills through the two Finance Acts.

The NGO has alleged that the Finance Acts have been enacted as money bills to bypass the Rajya Sabha.

It has contended that these legislations were not money bills as they provided for matters which were in addition to those enumerated in Article 110(1) of the Constitution and therefore, they were bills which had to be routed through the Rajya Sabha.

Article 110(1) lays down the constituents of a money bill, the NGO said and alleged that the passage of the two Finance Acts was a “clear case of constitutional fraud violating the fundamental rights and a colourable exercise of power”.

The petition has sought that the amendments made to the various laws be declared as “unconstitutional, illegal and void” and their operation be put on hold till the PIL is finally decided.

( Source – PTI )

Poll spending: Delhi HC asks ECI for regulation on it

Poll spending: Delhi HC asks ECI for regulation on it
Poll spending: Delhi HC asks ECI for regulation on it

The Delhi High Court today asked the Election Commission of India (ECI) to place before it the regulation for bringing transparency regarding expenditure of political parties and funds received by them.

A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Anu Malhotra directed the counsel for the poll panel to inform whether the parties were abiding by the guidelines on Transparency and Accountability in Party Funds and Election Expenditure.

“Place the status report with regard to the concern raised by the petitioner, before the next date of hearing, October 12,” it said.

The court was hearing an NGO’s plea for implementation of the Law Commission’s recommendation that a provision be enacted to monitor and regulate the expenditure by political parties during elections.

Senior advocate Arvind Nigam, appearing for petitioner Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), submitted that despite there being guidelines in place, the political parties were not abiding by them.

The petition has said that despite the Law Commission’s recommendations, there is no provision yet in the Representation of the People Act and the Election Rules to monitor poll expenses of political parties.

It has alleged that such a provision has “deliberately” not been enacted despite the Supreme Court having held that the EC has the power to give effect to the LC’s recommendation.

ADR has claimed that the existing law “does not measure up to the existing realities”.

It has alleged that since the present political system is being “funded through various illegal means and also by the people and corporate agencies with vested interests, it (political system) does not seem to be inclined to give effect to the recommendations of the LC”.

( Source – PTI )

Plea against pre-poll freebies promise: HC seeks Govt,EC reply

New Delhi, Feb 2 (PTI) The Delhi High Court today sought responses of the Centre and the Election Commission of India (ECI) on a petition seeking to restrain all political parties from making promises of offering freebies to people if they are voted to power.

A bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Sangita Dhingra Sehgal asked the ECI to explain if its guidelines on election manifesto are in conformity with the Supreme Courts direction given earlier.

“You (ECI) will have to file your response and inform this court whether the guidelines issued by you are in conformity with the directions given by the Supreme Court,” the bench said.
The court also issued notice to the Centre and asked both the government and ECI to file their response within eight weeks.

The bench has fixed the matter for hearing on May 24.

The high court was hearing a plea by Delhi resident Ashok Sharma who has sought direction to the ECI to restrain all political parties from distributing free goods (freebies) as are being allegedly offered in the upcoming state Assembly elections in the five states, scheduled to be held in February and March.

Assembly polls are to be held in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur.

The plea, filed through advocate A Maitri, has claimed that the poll panel in its recent guidelines has “nullified” the Supreme Courts directions, which had directed the ECI to frame guidelines in consultation with all recognised parties.

The apex court in its July 2013 verdict had observed that, “although the law is obvious that promises made in an election manifesto cannot be construed as a corrupt practice under section 123 of the Representation of the People Act, the reality is that distribution of freebies of any kind undoubtedly influences all people and it affects level-playing field.” (More) PTI ABA PPS HMP DV

NHRC seeks action against engaging children in polls

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has directed the Election Commission of India (ECI) to take appropriate action against parties and candidates engaging children for their campaigns for the Lok Sabha polls, an activist said here on Saturday.

Acting on a complaint lodged by Odisha based rights activist Akhand, the NHRC has ordered the ECI to take appropriate action within eight weeks and inform about the action taken in the matter.

Although, engaging children during the electoral campaigns is prohibited, many political parties are using them to canvass vote for the elections scheduled for next month, Akhand told a news agency.

They are engaging children for the distribution of posters and pamphlets or to participate in slogan shouting, campaign rallies and election meetings, which is a violation of the human rights, he said.

According to the law, children should be protected from any activities that could harm their development. It also provides power to the government to protect them from dangerous work or might harm their health or education, Akhand said.

Hearing the petition, the NHRC has asked the principal secretary of the ECI to take appropriate action, he added.

(Source: IANS)