SC dismisses petitions by Cong leaders on fake voters

SC dismisses petitions by Cong leaders on fake voters

Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed petitions filed by Congress leaders Kamal Nath and Sachin Pilot seeking directions to the Election Commission to provide them the draft electoral roll in text format, instead of PDF, and conduct VVPAT verification in at least 10% randomly selected polling stations in each Assembly constituency for upcoming polls in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

A bench of Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan relied upon the Election Manual to conclude that it does not entitle the petitioners to get the draft electoral roll in the text mode which is searchable as well viz in ‘full-text search’ form.

With regard to the plea for conducting VVPAT verification in the forthcoming Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, the bench cited the Supreme Court's previous order passed on October 30, 2017 in the Prakash Joshi case wherein the court decided to leave the issue to the discretion of the EC.

“There is no doubt about the bona fides of the ECI. It is a matter of record that in the last 25-30 years, EC has built up the reputation of an impartial body which strives to hold fair elections. It is a Constitutional Authority and has been discharging its functions quite satisfactorily,” the court said.

“People of this country, by and large, trust this institution for its impartial manner of discharging its functions,” it added.

In its judgement on petitions alleging 60 lakh duplicate voters in Madhya Pradesh alone, the court noted that there was a net deletion of about 24 lakh entries from the electoral roll during the process of continuous updation between January 19 and July 31, 2018.

The court also noted the EC has now published the final electoral roll on September 27, 2018, after removing all defects and discrepancies.

The EC's manual also said the draft electoral roll put up on the Chief Electoral Officer’s website shall only contain ‘text’ of the elector’s details and not his/her ‘photographs/pictures/pictorial content’.

“It is for the EC to decide about the format in which the draft electoral roll is to be published,” the court also said, rejecting the plea by leaders.

The top court also noted that the EC had on January 4, 2018, issued instructions to its field level functionaries to put only the ‘Image PDF’ of the electoral roll in the public domain in view of safety and privacy concerns.