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  • West Bengal governor calls major political parties for a meeting in a bid to stop post-poll violence in the state
  • Police stop BJP protestors from reaching police headquarters in Kolkata leading to clashes
  • PM asks all ministers to reach office by 9.30 am. Also asks senior ministers to guide new comers
  • NIA raids seven places in Coimbatore over suspected IS module
  • UP Bar Council chief, elected just three days back, shot dead on Agra district court premises
  • Isro to launch Chandrayaan-2 on July 15
  • The NRS hospital incident snowballs into a major crisis in West Bengal, affecting delivery of healthcare across the state
  • India play New Zealand in the World Cup today. Both teams are the only unbeaten teams left in the tournament
  • Congress thinking of having an interim president as the headless party is being torn apart
  • Temperatures in Delhi soar up to 48 degrees, the highest on over 20 years
  • Yuvraj Singh announces retirement from international cricket
  • SC to hear plea of the wife of journalist Prashant Kanojia, who was arrested for an alleged defamatory post on UP CM Yogi Adityanath
  • Modi asks all secretaries in the government to think of themselves as the PM while implementing strategies
  • WB governor KN Tripathi says he has not submitted a report that calls for the dismissal of the state government
  • Mamata Banerjee compares herself to a wounded tigress and warns the BJP against dislodging her government over post-poll clashes
Agitating doctors refuse to hold closed-door meeting with West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee. They ask her to visit NRS Hospital instead for an open meeting
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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.