Election Commission may revisit penal provision on test vote: Sunil Arora

Putting the onus on the elector in case of arbitrary deviant behaviour of machines infringed upon a citizen’s right to freedom of expression, the plea contended.

Published: 06th June 2019 02:41 AM  |   Last Updated: 06th June 2019 09:59 AM   |  A+A-

Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora

Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora (File | PTI)

By Express News Service

NEW DELHI: The Election Commission of India may revisit a rule that provides for prosecution of an elector if a complaint regarding malfunctioning of the EVM or VVPAT machine turns out to be false, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora has said.

“Now that the current elections are over, we will probably be discussing it internally whether it should be modified, softened etc... we may revisit it,” he said while talking to a news agency.

Under Rule 49MA of the Conduct of Election Rules, a voter who claims that the EVM or the paper trail machine did not record his or her vote correctly is allowed to cast a test vote.

If the voter fails to prove the mismatch, poll officials can initiate action against the complainant under Section 177 of the Indian Penal Code, which deals with giving false submission.

Under the Section, a person can be punished with jail term up to six months, or fine to the tune of Rs 1,000 or both.

The EC has all along maintained that if there is no penal provision, there may be a flood of false claims. 
CEC Arora said the penal provision is used as “an exception…very very rarely.” The intention of the provision was to discourage those who want to disrupt the electoral process by making such complaints, he added.

In April, a Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had sought the poll panel’s response on a plea seeking setting aside of Rule 49MA.

The plea alleged that the provision was unconstitutional as it criminalised reporting of malfunctioning of EVMs and VVPAT machines.

Putting the onus on the elector in case of arbitrary deviant behaviour of machines infringed upon a citizen’s right to freedom of expression, the plea contended.

EC reminder to state officials on paid news

The poll panel has reminded the state election officers to publish the name of candidates found involved in the case of paid news on the state election office websites.

Officials said nearly 650 cases of paid news have been found from several parts of the country this year.

In a letter to the state election officers on June 4, the Commission referred to an earlier order issued in 2013 in which it was said that the name of candidates will be publicised on the chief electoral officer’s website in an appropriate manner.

It also said that the name of the defaulting media house or publication will be sent to the Press Council of India and the News Broadcasters Association along with all the details.

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