Thursday, April 18, 2024


CHANDIGARH – On June 19, 2022 the General Elections to 46 Municipalities (18 Municipal Councils and 28 Municipal Committees) in the State of Haryana would be conducted by the State Election Commission (SEC) wherein although Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) would be used for Polling/Voting but without usage of Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (V.V.P.A.T.) which is however mandatory as per Oct, 2013 Judgment of the Supreme Court of India. In recent years, the Election Commission of India (ECI) too has been conducting General/Bye Elections to Lok Sabha as well as to Legislative Assemblies in the country with usage of EVM-VVPAT technology.
The SEC has in a recent reply dated June 15, as sent to Hemant Kumar, Advocate, Punjab and Haryana High Court, who on May 29 wrote to Dhanpat Singh, State Election Commissioner, Haryana appealing mandatory usage of V.V.P.A.T. in June 19 scheduled Polling for Municipal Elections in the State, it has been stated by SEC that two years ago in June, 2020 it had written to Election Commission of India (ECI) to convey its consent for providing 45 thousand EVMs (M3 version without VVPATs) in view of forthcoming Municipal and Panchayat Institutions in the State, however, the ECI responded that they can provide only M2 EVMs through loaning. It was also informed that as per policy of ECI, they will not provide M3 EVMs with VVPATs to the State Election Commissions for use in Local Bodies elections. Pertinent that M2 is an old version of EVMs which are not compatible with VVPATs whereas M3 is the latest version which is being used by ECI across the country for facilitating usage of VVPATs with EVMs.
Further, it has also been informed to the Advocate in the letter sent by SEC, Haryana that matter with regard to the design of M3 EVMs and VVPAT to be procured by it is presently under consideration of Technical Evaluation Committee (TEC) and as such till the design of M3 EVMs and VVPATs is approved and required number of such machines are procured, the SEC, Haryana would not be able to use the EVMs with VVPAT in ensuing Panchayat and Municipal Elections in Haryana.
Meanwhile, Hemant asserts that that the Supreme Court of India in its judgement titled Dr. Subramanian Swamy vs Election Commission Of India (Oct, 2013) has recognized that the incorporation and implementation of a system of paper trail in EVMs is an indispensable requirement of a free and fair elections.
He also mentioned in his May 29 Appeal as sent to SEC, Haryana that ever since the pronouncement of aforesaid verdict of the Apex Court mandating usage of VVPAT along with EVMs, the ECI in a phased manner has meticulously implemented the inclusive EVM-VVPAT mechanism across the country. The Central Government on its part also suitably amended Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 to facilitate usage of VVPAT along with EVMs.
Three years ago in May-June 2019 during General Elections for the current 17th Lok Sabha, such a system was used in all 543 Parliamentary Constituencies (PCs) across the country.
Moreover, the ECI has also been strictly complying with another Judgment of the Supreme Court titled N. Chandrababu Naidu & Others Vs Union of India (Apr,2019) wherein Apex Court ordered mandatory verification of VVPAT generated paper slips out of 5 randomly selected polling stations in each Assembly Constituency/Segments after completion of the last round of counting of votes recorded in the EVMs.
The Advocate also wrote that three months ago in March, 2022, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) through Saurabh Bhardwaj, present MLA of Delhi Assembly approached Delhi High Court by filing a Writ Petition urging the Court to give a direction to SEC, Delhi for conduct of General Elections to then three Municipal Corporations (North, South and East MCs) in Delhi which were then scheduled in April-May, 2022 by usage of VVPAT along with EVMs. The Delhi High Court issued notice to ECI and SEC, Delhi seeking their response in this regard. Although, thereafter due to passage and enactment of Delhi Municipal Corporation (Amendment) Bill, 2022 by both Houses of Parliament which aims at re-unification/re-integration of aforesaid three MCs into single entity, as was the case before the year 2012, the next MCD General Elections have got delayed however the Delhi High Court is nevertheless seized of the issue pertaining to directing the SEC, Delhi for usage of VVPAT along with EVMs in forthcoming MCD Elections. The next date of hearing is scheduled for Sep 2, 2022.
Meanwhile, Hemant asserts that although the Haryana Government has till date not incorporated the mechanism of VVPAT in Haryana Municipal Election Rules, 1978 even after more than 8 years of SC Judgment in Dr. Subramanian Swamy’s case (2013) due to reasons best known to it, yet the SEC, Haryana which is a Constitutional body under Article(s) 243 K and 243 ZA of Constitution of India vested with powers regarding the superintendence, direction and control of Elections to all the Panchayats and Municipalities in the State, can very much on its own take a decision by issuance of an Order or otherwise for usage of VVPAT along with EVMs during Municipal and Panchayat Elections in Haryana which is even otherwise mandatory in terms of Supreme Court Judgment as cited above. The SEC, Haryana, which has also got a Constitutional status similarly on the lines of ECI, can also on its own, purchase/procure latest M3 version EVMs which are compatible with VVPAT from the same Public Sector Undertakings/Enterprises from where ECI is procuring the same.

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