Even as 26 cases related to the civic elections held in 2012 are still pending in the small causes court in Mumbai, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC)’s legal department is looking at 156 additional cases linked with the civic elections held in February this year. A comparison of the figures on malpractices in both the elections indicates a significant rise, especially in cases alleging tampering of electronic voting machines (EVMs): the number has jumped from 2 in 2012 to at least 17 this year.
Legal department officials said after this year’s civic elections, 156 cases have been filed in the small causes court while in 2012, the figure was 101 cases. Of the cases, 17 cases involve allegations of EVM machines being tampered with while 14 others relate to defective or faulty electoral list. The two cases filed in 2012 are still pending in court.
The EVM-related cases this year include the names of several sitting corporators, including Samajwadi Party leader and two-time corporator Rais Shaikh, Sena corporator, former mayor Shraddha Jadhav, Sena corporator Anant Bhiku Nar, NCP corporator Manisha Rahate and Congress corporator Vithal Lokare.
Earlier this month, the AAP raised serious allegations with the state election commission that EVM machines could be tampered with and even conducted a live demonstration on how the voting machines could be manipulated. After being repeatedly urged by Opposition parties to adopt the old paper ballot system instead, the SEC, on May 20, declared an open challenge to all national and state political parties from June 3 onwards to prove the EVM machines could be hacked.
Among other serious civic polls-related charges, allegations of candidates’ involvement in unauthorised constructions too has seen a rise from one case in 2012 to 20 this year. “If a candidate has been served a notice for unauthorised construction and if the candidate has not revealed it in his or her affidavit, then he or she could be disqualified as a corporator if proven in court,” said an official in the legal department.
Another serious offence involves improper rejection of a candidate’s nomination form. Such cases are filed against the returning officer concerned. “It is easier to prove a charge of improper acceptance since we can justify the reason. However, a case of improper rejection is hard to win and there can be serious repercussions if the judge rules in the petitioner’s favour,” the official said.
Of the 156 cases filed with the small causes court, the BMC has only received the documents for 128 so far. Based on the analysis of data prepared by the legal department, the number of cases citing the use of corrupt practices, however, has reduced from 55 in 2012 to 33 this year.