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

News Snippets

  • The government decides to decriminalize more than two-thirds of penal sections in the Companies Act
  • Muslim groups tell the Supreme Court that they want the Babri Masjid to be restored
  • Muslim groups claim that while they were asked questions in court, Hindus were not questioned
  • Postpaid mobile services restored in Jammu & Kashmir from today, but still no internet
  • Abhijit Banerjee, an Indian-American currently a professor at MIT, wins the 2019 Noble prize in economics jointly with two others
  • Industrial output slumps in August as the IIP shrinks by 1.1%
  • Prime Minister Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping watch a cultural show at the Shore Temple in Mamallapuram
  • J&K administration lifts the ban on entry of tourists in the Valley, but it remains doubtful how many will visit without being able to use mobile phones and internet
  • After Sena asks members to support the BJP candidate in Kalyan, 26 party corporators and 300 members resign setting off a crisis
  • The Centre sets up a 12-member committee to suggest systemic changes in the GST structure to improve compliance and collection, prevent misuse and evasion and rationalize rates and slabs
  • In line with the RBI outlook on the Indian economy, rating firm Moody's also downgrades growth forecast from 6.8% to 5.8% this year, saying the economy is experiencing a pronounced slowdown
  • HDFC chairman Deepak Parekh says the financial system in India does not offer foolproof security for misuse of the savings of the common man
  • Shivinder Singh and Malvinder Singh, promoters of Ranbaxy and Fortis, arrested for their role in Religare Finvest scam
  • Supreme Court says marriage can be dissolved if it has broken down irretrievably
  • DA of Central government staff hiked by 5% to 17%
Sourav Ganguly is the new president of BCCI, says conflict of interest is a big concern
oppn parties
EVMs With VVPAT: Penalizing Voter For Complaining Is Unfair

By Sunil Garodia

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.