NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice to the Election Commission on a petition challenging a provision that mandates six months’ imprisonment if a complaint against the Electronic Voting Machine (EVMs) turns out to be false.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi issued notice to the poll panel on a plea filed by advocate Sunil Ahya that stated it was unfair and unjust that the onus of proof was on the voter.
The petition said Rule 49MA of ‘The Conduct of Elections Rules’ was unconstitutional as it criminalised reporting of malfunctioning of EVMs and Voter Verified Paper Audit Trails (VVPATs).
According to the rule, if a person files a complaint regarding a discrepancy and after investigation it is found to be false or incorrect, then the complainant can be prosecuted under Section 177 of IPC for furnishing false information. This section invites six months in jail or `1,000 fine or both.
The plea contended that such a clause deters an elector from reporting any discrepancies observed at the time of casting vote, which is essential for improving the election process.
It further said that holding an elector accountable for deviant behaviour of EVMs and VVPATs infringes upon a citizen’s right to freedom of expression.
The petition sought a direction to the EC to register a complaint of any deviant behaviour of equipment used in the election process.
Deterred by imprisonment risk
On April 23, after casting his vote in Guwahati, former Assam DGP Harekrishna Deka had complained about the malfunctioning of the VVPAT but said that he did not lodge a complain after he was told by the polling officer that if his complaint was found to be false, he could face imprisonment.