The Supreme Court ruled that an elector who makes a false complaint regarding an EVM malfunction must know the consequences

On Monday, the Supreme Court, while hearing an appeal against a rule relating to the malfunctioning of an EVM, observed that a person who makes a false statement must be aware of the consequences because such ideas stall the electoral process.

At this stage, a bench led by Justice Ajay Rastogi instructed the petitioner to file a written explanation of why the provision was problematic.

We are very honest with you and tell you that we do not see any reason to consider your request for Rule 49MA. Could you please explain what is wrong with the provision in your opinion? The court requested that you bring a written note explaining why this provision should be succumbed and asked that the case be scheduled for hearing after vacation.

Someone needs to be aware of the consequences of making a false statement. There is a halt to all further electoral proceedings. You inform the election officer, and he takes the decision,” said the bench, including Justice Bela M Trivedi.

If we find riders making complaints, strict riders have to be there – who makes the complaint and who takes the call (it will be taken into account). In this case, the system will not be able to function,” it stated.

During the hearing, Sunil Ahya alleges that Rule 49MA of “The Conduct of Elections Rules” is unconstitutional since it criminalizes the report of malfunctions of electronic voting machines and voter-verified paper audit trails.

The following rule applies when a printer is used for the paper trail: If an elector alleges that the paper slip generated by the printer has shown the name or symbol of a candidate other than the candidate for which he voted after having recorded his vote under rule 49M, the presiding officer shall obtain a written declaration from the elector concerning the allegation, following a warning of the consequences of making a false declaration from the elector.

In the plea, it is alleged that placing the onus on the elector in cases of arbitrary deviant behaviour of voting machines infringes on the freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution.

It may be impossible for an elector to reproduce the same results, which he complained about, one more time due to the pre-programmed deviant behaviour of the electronic machines when asked to cast a test vote as prescribed under Rule 49MA.

When reporting the deviant behaviour of an electronic machine used in the election process, an elector must cast two votes; the first must be cast in secrecy, and the second must be cast in the presence of the candidates or polling agents. It appears from the plea that a test vote cast subsequently in the company of others cannot be used as conclusive evidence of the deviant behaviour or otherwise of the last vote cast in secret,” the plea stated.

Holding an elector responsible for the deviant behaviour of an EVM or VVPAT could discourage them from coming forward and making a complaint, which is essential for improving the process.

It is also possible that this will create an impression of free and fair elections, when in fact people have not come forward with complaints,” it was stated in the plea.

The report added that since only an elector could witness the secrecy of his vote, it would violate Article 20(3) of the Constitution, which states that no one accused of an offence may be forced to testify against himself. PTI

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