New Delhi: The Election Commission on Monday defended a rule which provides for prosecution of an elector if the complaint alleging malfunctioning of EVMs and VVPAT machines eventually turns out to be false, saying without it, people may indulge in making frivolous complaints.
Addressing the media on the conclusion of phase-4 of Lok Sabha polls, deputy election commissioner Sudip Jain said if there was no penal provision, people may make false claims.
Responding to a question, he said it takes 20 to 30 minutes to go through and settle complaints about VVPAT machines showing incorrect result.
So far, he said, there have only been three complaints one each in Gujarat and Kerala and one made by a former DGP of Assam.
The first two complaints were proved to be wrong and the former never went ahead to file the complaint.
The response of the EC on the issue came on a day when the Supreme Court sought a response from the poll panel on a plea seeking setting aside a rule which provides for prosecution of an elector if the complaint alleging malfunctioning of EVMs and VVPAT machines eventually turns out to be false.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi took note of the plea, which alleged that Rule 49MA of ‘The Conduct of Elections Rules’ was unconstitutional as it criminalises reporting of malfunctioning of Electronic Voting Machines and Voter Verified Paper Audit Trails.
The plea alleged that putting the onus on the elector in cases of arbitrary deviant behaviour of machines used in election process, infringes upon a citizen’s right to freedom of expression under the Constitution.
The petition said that presently, the burden of proof, rests on the elector for reporting any deviant behaviour of EVMs and VVPAT machines, who will face criminal charges irrespective of whether the complaint was truthful and honest.
It said that when an elector is asked to cast test vote as prescribed under Rule 49MA, he may not be able to reproduce the same result which he was complaining about, one more time in a sequence, because of the pre-programmed deviant behaviour of the electronic machines.
“In the course of reporting the deviant behaviour of an electronic machine used in the election process, an elector has to cast two votes; first one in secrecy and the second a test vote in the presence of the candidates or polling agents. A test vote cast subsequently in the presence of others cannot become a conclusive evidence of the deviant behaviour or otherwise of the previous vote cast in absolute secrecy,” the plea said.
Jain said section 177 of the Indian Penal Code applies in the case as it deals with giving a false submission.
Section 177 of the IPC states that: the person “shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both…”