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.

Maharastra court orders attachment of property of the opposition leader in state legislative

MUMBAI:  A court in Maharashtra’s Beed district ordered the attachment of properties of senior Nationalist Congress Party leader  and leader of opposition in the state legislative council, Dhananjay Munde in connection with a cheating case lodged against Mr. Munde  for not repaying a Rs 3 crore loan taken  from the district central cooperative bank several years ago.

The FIR, filed against Munde and other directors of the cotton mill, said that the loan was obtained without following due process and without checking if it had the ability to repay the loan. Munde, has been one of the directors of a cotton mill since 2006.

Beed SP G Sreedher had moved a miscellaneous application before the court under the Criminal Law Amendment Ordinance 1944, seeking attachment of immovable properties of the mill directors, including Munde.

Judge Dhananjay Deshpande of the additional district court of Ambajogai, in his order on September 5, stated that properties belonging to Munde be attached and he be prohibited from transferring or charging the said properties.

However, Munde said his opponents were drawing wrong conclusions from the court order in a bid to malign his image. He further claimed that he did not get prior notice due to which he could not defend his stand.

NCP will have to vacate its Delhi office: Court

NCP will have to vacate its Delhi office: Court
NCP will have to vacate its Delhi office: Court

Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has been asked to vacate its Delhi office by a city court here.

The office of NCP is currently located in the posh Lutyens zone at 10, Dr Bishambar Das Marg in the heart of the national capital.

District Judge Poonam A Bamba rejected the appeal of the NCP against the order of the Estate Officer, who had asked it to vacate the premises which is to be demolished for redevelopment of the area.

“In view of the above, the appellant’s contention of being singled out and action of cancellation of allotment of the said bungalow being motivated, is also without any basis,” it said, noting that the occupants of other bungalows in the area have also been asked to vacate.

It also noted that the allotment of the premises stood cancelled with effect from April 1 this year and that the NCP has already taken over possession of an alternate bungalow.

In its August 1 order, the Estate Officer had asked the NCP and everyone living at 10, Dr Bishambar Das Marg to vacate the premises.

The bungalow was allotted to the appellant in June 2000.

In March this year, a notice was sent to the political party mentioning that due to redevelopment project of Dr. B D Marg, it was decided to allot bungalow no 1, Canning Lane, to the party as an alternate building.

However, the NCP refused to accept the alternate bungalow, claiming that it was too small and does not fulfill its requirement.

( Source – PTI )

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.

Ansari sworn in as 14th Vice-President

Hamid Ansari was sworn-in as the Vice-President of the country for the second consecutive term by President Pranab Mukherjee in New Delhi on Saturday.

Mr Ansari, 75, was administered the oath by the President at a grand ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhawan.

He had defeated NDA candidate Jaswant Singh with a comfortable margin earlier this week for his re-election as Vice-President.

Mr Ansari had polled 490 first preference votes out of 728 valid votes cast in the election held on August. Jaswant Singh polled 238 votes.

Mr Ansari got more votes than he had secured in the 2007 election. He had the backing of the Congress and its allies in the UPA, including the Nationalist Congress Party, DMK and the National Conference.

After Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Mr Ansari is the only person to have been re-elected to the office.

Barred from Shivaji Park, MNS threatens street rally

The Bombay High Court Friday rejected the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena’s (MNS) petition for permission to hold a poll rally at Shivaji Park. Terming the move as “partisan”, MNS chief Raj Thackeray said his party would hold the rally on Mumbai streets.

The court rejected the petition to hold the rally Feb 13 on the grounds that the venue falls within a silence zone.

“They had granted permission to (Shiv Sena’s) Dussehra rally on the grounds that it was a cultural event. What culture? Were they dancing there? They were criticizing everybody, where’s ‘culture’ in this?” a miffed Raj said.

He said the MNS would be compelled to hold the rally on the streets. “Let them (government) take any action against us,” he said.

“It is a partisan decision. Bodies like the high court or the election commission must be transparent in their functioning. I am not insulting anybody, but if they don’t appear to be transparent, can’t we as citizens even speak about it?” Raj asked.

He alleged that the state government, especially the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), was behind the move.

He said that in a democracy, “people” are supreme and the concerned authorities must bear this in mind.