NEW DELHI: Weeks before the states of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan go for assembly polls, the Supreme Court on Friday dismissed plea of Congress leaders who raised question of election commission for allegedly not taking steps to ensure free and fair elections by weeding out duplicate and fake voters from the electoral list.
A bench of Justices AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan refused to give credence to the allegations levelled by Congress chief of three states — Kamal Nath, Sachin Pilot and Bhupesh Baghel— against the commission while seeking directions against it including for providing them electoral list in word format to find out faker voters. The commission had refuted the allegations and told the court that elections could not be conducted according to their “personal whims” and said that their petitions were a gross abuse of law.
In a strong rebuttal of the allegations, the commission filed an affidavit through its advocate Amit Sharma and said “Petition is misconceived and malafide, as he is seeking to instruct/direct EC, which is a constitutional authority, to conduct elections according to his personal whims and fancies and that of the political party to which he stands affiliated ... thus, it is neither tenable nor proper that the petitioner (and the political party/organization to which he is affiliated) is trying to forcibly instruct EC as to how to conduct elections or is trying to impose his suggestions upon EC.”
Accepting the plea of the commission, the bench said that “bona fides” of EC could not be doubted and turned down their plea for electoral list in word format as it was not allowed under election manual.
“It is a matter of record that in the last 25-30 years, ECI 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. People of this country, by and large, trust this institution for its impartial manner of discharging its functions. That is absolutely essential as well in a democratic polity where ‘We, the people’ elect the representatives to the legislative assemblies of the state as well as Parliament at the Centre,” the bench said.
“Once we find that Clause (of election manual) does not entitle the petitioner to get the draft electoral roll in the text mode which is searchable, it is for the ECI to decide about the format in which the draft electoral roll is to be published. ECI has given the reasons for not adhering to the request of the petitioner in providing draft electoral roll in searchable PDF format. According to it, issues of privacy of voters are involved and the move of ECI is aimed at prevention of voter profiling and data mining,” the court said.
Elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Mizoram will be held between November 12 and December 7. Counting for all the states will be held on December 11. Chhattisgarh will have two-phase polling on November 12, covering 18 assembly constituencies affected by left-wing extremism, and November 20 (for the remaining 72 seats). Mizoram, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan will have a single-day poll. While polling in Mizoram and Madhya Pradesh will be held together on November 28, Rajasthan and Telangana will be the last to vote on December 7 and counting of votes will take place on December 11.
One of the major issues raised by Nath pertained to duplicate and fake voters in the electoral list. He said Congress had made a detailed presentation to the EC on June 3 highlighting 60 lakh “duplicate, repeat, multiple, illegal, invalid and false entries” in the electoral rolls for MP.
Responding to Nath’s allegation, the commission said all entries had been verified physically in a door-to-door campaign by it. “In physical verification, 23,67,487 electors were found present, 2,34,596 electors were either deleted already or not found enrolled in the respective constituencies. In 46,859 cases, electors were found to be absent and 16,675 electors were found to be deceased. In all such cases, the action for deletion has already been taken. It is emphasised that only 8,728 cases were found in the repeated entry category against which appropriate action has already been initiated as per law,” the commission said.