Draft voter list:Hearing on Kamal Nath's plea on Sep 27

Draft voter list:Hearing on Kamal Nath's plea on Sep 27

 Congress leader Kamal Nath. PTI file photo

The Supreme Court on Thursday deferred to September 27 the hearing on Congress leader Kamal Nath's plea seeking draft voter list of Madhya Pradesh in word format, and said the issue requires a substantive hearing.

The Congress leader said that Election Commission of India (ECI) had provided voter lists in word format during Karnataka and Rajasthan elections as also during Madhya Pradesh assembly polls in 2013.

ECI said it received complaints of voter profiling and to prevent the misuse of data it has taken a conscious decision to provide it in PDF format (non-editable).

A bench of Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan said that the matter requires a substantive hearing and listed the matter for further hearing on September 27.

During the hearing, senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Nath, said that when the ECI can provide the draft voter list in word format in other states, then what is the problem in providing the list in Madhya Pradesh.

"We want the list to be provided in word format. They have provided us during Karnataka election, they are giving us in Rajasthan and even in Madhya Pradesh they have given in 2013. Now they are saying it was a mistake," Sibal said.

Senior advocate Vikas Singh, appearing for ECI along with advocate Amit Sharma, said that they have received complaints of voter profiling and therefore a conscious decision was taken to provide the draft list in PDF format.

He said it was done to thwart any attempt of misuse of voters data.

Sibal said that in PDF format they are providing the same data like they will do in word format, then where is the question of misuse.

On September 18, the poll panel in its affidavit had justified providing the draft electoral rolls in PDF format in Madhya Pradesh without any pictures of voters and said that it was done to prevent manipulation of the elector's data.

It had sought dismissal of petition filed by Nath alleging duplication of names in the voters list as "not maintainable", "completely frivolous" and "an abuse of the process of court".

Referring to the rule of Manual of Electoral Roll, the ECI in its reply on the petition said the draft roll is being put in the public domain at the Chief Electoral Officer's website in PDF format and it contains only text and no photographs against the elector's detail.

The poll panel had said, "It is apposite to note that the ECI has taken a conscious policy decision in issuing these guidelines in order to protect the privacy of the elector as well as to prohibit profiling of electors in view of certain complaints made before the ECI as well the global challenges to electoral integrity".

The poll panel had termed providing of draft electoral rolls in word format in Rajasthan as an "inadvertent error" and in contravention of rules and for the same, necessary action has been initiated by the ECI and the CEO, Rajasthan has been replaced.

With regard to the allegation of 60 lakh duplicate voters being found in draft electoral rolls in Madhya Pradesh, the poll panel said that it has already been replied to the All India Congress Committee after the receipt of field verification report carried out by the CEO of MP.

"Insofar as the allegation of 60 lakhs duplicate, multiple entries are concerned, it is revealed on verification that the complaint is based on limited parameters of a common name, relation and gender. It is significant to mention that the other necessary parameters of age and photo have not been included by the complainant in reaching the said figure of 60 lakhs," it said.

The poll panel said that the use of limited parameters to reach a figure cannot be categorized as demographically similar entries and, therefore, the multiple, similar, duplicate entries as alleged by AICC is "extrapolated".

The apex court had on August 23, sought reply of poll panel on the petitions filed by Nath and Sachin Pilot.

Nath in his plea, filed through advocate Varun Chopra, had also alleged that in a survey conducted by him in Madhya Pradesh, over 60 lakh fake voters have been found. 

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