New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday issued a notice to the Election Commission on a plea challenging the legal provision mandating six months jail for questioning Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).
On a petition filed by Sunil Ahya, an SC bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi heard the arguments and issued the notice to the Election Commission.
According to Section 49 MA of the Code of Election Rules, if a person files a complaint regarding discrepancy in the EVM, and if after investigation it is found to be false or incorrect, then the complainant can be prosecuted under Section 177 of the Indian Penal Code for "furnishing false information". This section invites "six months in jail or a fine of Rs 1,000 or both".
Ahya contended that such a provision in election rules will act as a deterrent for voters experiencing faults in the EVMs from lodging a formal complaint.
Claiming that the provision was not fair and that it will discourage voters with genuine complaints from coming forward, the petitioner said, "This infringes upon a citizen's right to freedom of expression, which is a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India," said the petition.
"Deviant behaviour of the electronic machine should not go against the electorate and lodging a complaint is an essential ingredient in a continuous exercise for improving the electoral process," Ahya said.
The petitioner also included some suggestions to improve the overall electoral exercise. He said, "One of the possible ways to address the issue of reporting the aforesaid discrepancy in the future would be to keep the ballot unit lamp against the blue button of EVM glowing and at the same time, to let the VVPAT printed slip remain hanging in the transparent window without it being automatically cut after 7 seconds, unless and until the voter is completely satisfied and comes out of the polling booth."