oppn parties EVMs With VVPAT: Penalizing Voter For Complaining Is Unfair

News Snippets

  • Centre asks states to give shelter and food to migrant workers to stop them from taking to the streets
  • RBI cuts repo rate by 75 bps, the steepest in 10 years
  • Centre writes to states regarding laxity in monitoring people who had arrived from abroad between January and March
  • Kerala reports a spurt in new cases
  • With 124 fresh cases on Friday, the number of reported cases in India stand at 854
  • Five of a family, including a 9-month-old-baby test positive for Covid-19 in Nadia district in West Bengal on Friday
  • The Pakistani army is reportedly forcibly moving all Covid-19 patients to PoK and Gilgit
  • Untimely azaans in J&K mosques spark panic gathering
  • Stocks rise - Sensex up by 1400 points and Nifty goes above the 8600 mark
  • Rahul Gandhi says the economic package is "the first step in the right direction"
  • The government announces wide-ranging measures to help the poor overcome the economic hardship caused by Covid-19
  • G20 leaders to hold a virtual meeting today to explore ways of fighting Covid-19 in a coordinated manner
  • The Delhi government orders testing of all medical staff after the positive test on a Delhi mohalla clinic doctor
  • As a fallout of a Delhi mohalla clinic doctor testing positive for Covid-19, 900 people in the chain quarantined
  • China offers help to India in the fight against Covid-19 and says India will win the battle at an early date
Death toll reaches 27 as Covid-19 cases across India reach 974 on Saturday
oppn parties
EVMs With VVPAT: Penalizing Voter For Complaining Is Unfair

By Sunil Garodia
First publised on 2019-05-03 19:15:02

About the Author

Sunil Garodia Editor-in-Chief of indiacommentary.com. Current Affairs analyst and political commentator. Writes for a number of publications.
When laws are made they seek to penalize wrongdoers without accounting for both advances in technology (including the sporadic erratic behavior of any technical device) and other laws. Hence it is that the Supreme Court is hearing a petition that seeks withdrawal of penal provisions in the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 (CER) that provide for a jail term to voters who challenge the functioning of an Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) and are subsequently unable to prove their charge.

When any EVM is attached to a VVPAT, the paper should compulsorily reflect the same result that the voter had input in the EVM. Sometimes, the result is different. A voter is entitled to complain to the polling officer about such difference. But the catch is, if the polling officer tests the machine and finds its behavior perfect during such a test vote, the voter who complained will be hauled up under Section 177 of the Indian Penal Code read with Rule 49MA and maybe jailed or fined or punished with both. This deters many voters (a former director general of Assam Police refrained from complaining for this reason recently) and defeats the purpose of having a provision for complaining.

It is true that the election process can be intentionally disrupted if frivolous complaints are allowed to be lodged. Political parties and their musclemen have already devised many ‘peaceful’ processes like booth jamming and questioning the bona fide of genuine voters inside the booth to delay the voting process in booths where they think that voters will not vote for them. If complaining about VVPAT is added to this list, very little voting might take place in some booths. But this does not mean that the right of the people to match their vote through VVPAT and complain if it is different can be taken away through threats of jail terms.

EVMs, being electronic machines, depend on their circuit boards and software to function properly. They can malfunction due to a host of reasons, extreme heat and dust (common in India) being two of them. Again, it cannot be guaranteed that an EVM that has reflected a different result in the VVPAT might do so again during a test vote. The machine might cool down (if it had heated up during continuous voting and if that was the reason for the malfunction) during the time it takes to complain and carry out the test vote. It might work perfectly then, putting the complainant in trouble.

Hence, there is a need to safeguard the sanctity and secrecy of the vote and protect the voter too. One feels that instead of one test vote, a best of five test votes can be carried out. If more than three results are different from the EVM, then the complaint should stand. Otherwise, a method should be devised to cancel the previous vote of the complainant and he should be allowed to cast a fresh vote. In any case, the penal provisions must be deleted. Some other method of preventing frivolous complaints must be thought of. Elections will be fair only if every vote is correctly recorded. Hence, a balance must be struck between verifying genuine claims of malfunction without penalizing the voter and preventing frivolous complaints.