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CONGRESS vs. ELECTION COMMISSION OF INDIA-No Headings | Company Vakil

On 12th October 2018, Friday, the Supreme Court of India has dismissed the petitions which were filed by the Congress leaders, Kamal Nath and Sachin Pilot. These leaders had sought directions to the Election Commission for conducting the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) verification on random basis. This was done for 10 per cent of votes in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan poll bound, also, the soft copies of the draft electoral rolls for Madhya Pradesh in text format were provided.
The petitions were rejected by a bench of Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan. They went into the conduct of election rules, and said that in the opinion of the Court, requirement contained in the Election Manual are fulfilled as the format in which the draft electoral roll is supplied to the petitioner. In addition to this, Attorney General informed the court that guidelines have already been brought by the Election Commission of India, when the bench noted that similar prayers had been raised in an earlier petition.
Clause 11.2.2.2 of Chapter XI of the Election Manual, 2016, were cited by Kamal Nath, in order to support his demand for a text version of the draft electoral rolls published on 19th January 2018. Putting draft roll on website has a clause which says that on the same day, the draft roll shall be put in public domain, at Chief Electoral Officer’s website, in a PDF format. This should be done in the text mode and no photographs would be provided against the elector’s details. Instead, it was just provide with the details that whether a photograph is available or not.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal has argued that it was necessary because the search option was available only in the format of the text and only then would political parties be able to analyse the data and give suggestions or submit objections if duplicate or fake voters are found. He also said that if the voters’ list for Rajasthan was made available in text format why can’t the Madhya Pradesh voter list be provided also.
The Election Commission countered this argument by saying that it had put the voters’ list on its website in text mode and that it had taken a very conscious decision not to give copies of these lists to any of the political parties in scannable text mode to protect the privacy of voters. The Commission also informed the court about the representation that was dated 3rd June,2018, which it had received from the Congress party with regard to the entries in the rolls, also the Commission had carried out the corrections on 25th May, itself, even before receipt of the complaint.
The Court, after examining each and every aspect of the case, concluded that as the clause nowhere suggests/says that the draft electoral roll has to be put up on the Chief Electoral Officer’s website in the form of a searchable PDF, hence, the petitioner cannot claim it as a right that the draft electoral roll should be placed on the website in a searchable mode. It is only to be provided in the text mode. Adding to it, the court said that if the petitioner wanted, he can always convert it into searchable mode.

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