SC to EC: No deletion of names from voters’ lists without notice
The Election Commission is to ensure that voters's names are not deleted from electoral rolls without serving notice first, per the rules
The Supreme Court of India, in a judgement delivered on 4 August, had directed the Election Commission of India to ensure that voters’s names are not deleted without proper on-ground verification and without serving notice first.
The judgement followed reports from different parts of the country of large-scale deletion of voters, mostly from minority communities and disadvantaged groups, pointed out Jagdeep Chhokar of the Association of Democratic Reforms at a media interaction in New Delhi on Monday, 4 September.
'No deletion should be done without following due process of law as contained in the Representation of the People Act, 1950, and the Registration of Electors Rules, 1960,' the court had ordered. 'In all cases, a notice must be issued to the elector and must be duly served on him.”
Several other suggestions and demands are now being placed in a memorandum to be submitted to the Election Commission. These are based on recommendations made by the Citizens’ Commission on Elections headed by Justice Madan Lokur, retired Supreme Court judge.
The memorandum urges the Election Commission to come up with a system of social audit of electoral rolls, to be displayed in accessible places and made available on the ECI website in a searchable database. Voters should be empowered to check their own information as well as check for bogus names and duplicates in their area.
At the media interaction, Prashant Bhushan, Supreme Court advocate, flagged several documented cases of manipulation of EVMs. There have also been cases of EVMs being found in unauthorised locations after polling, including in the private cars of candidates, raising doubts on sabotage and interference.
Reports of discrepancies between the voter turnout count and the EVM count have also called into question the overall electoral process, the memorandum points out.
The VVPAT system (voter-verified paper audit train) should be recalibrated to be fully voter-verifiable, the memorandum demands. A voter should be able to get the VVPAT slip in their hand and cast it in a chip-free ballot box for the vote to be valid, it suggests. These VVPAT slips should be fully counted first for all constituencies before results are declared, the memorandum continues, and for this purpose, the slips should be larger in size and must be printed in such a manner that they can be preserved for a minimum of five years.
The memorandum also demands that Forms 17A (register of electors) and Forms 17C (account of votes recorded) must be tallied and publicly disclosed at the end of polling, on the polling day itself.
Anjali Bhardwaj, RTI activist, questioned the U-turn taken by the Election Commission on the issue of electoral bonds at the press conference. While the Commission had opposed the dubious scheme in 2017, 2018 and 2019, it supported the scheme before the Supreme Court in 2021.
In its 2019 affidavit to the Supreme Court, the ECI had stated that the amendments to various laws prevented the ECI from carrying out its oversight function. This, the Commission said, was because there was no provision for disclosure of source of funds for electoral bonds. Further, the ECI had held that the changes to the FCRA would 'allow unchecked foreign funding of political parties in India, which could lead to Indian policies being influenced by foreign companies'.
The memorandum demands that the Election Commission must oppose electoral bonds that provide for unlimited anonymous funding of political parties and must ensure that money power does not sway elections and their outcome.
The press release regarding the memorandum is reproduced below. The full text of the memorandum (in English, Hindi, Kannada and Tamil) is available here.