Hearing a bunch of petitions in connection with the deletion of names from the final voter lists of Mumbai and Pune, the Bombay High Court Tuesday raised concern over interfering with the electoral process. It also expressed apprehension over the feasibility of conducting the verification of lakhs of such voters all over again and hold re-polls.
“There was a remedy available to raise an objection. Let us assume there was a mistake, but the final voters’ list was published on January 31,” said a division bench of Justices A S Oka and M S Sonak. The court clarified that it was “dealing with the scope of interference in the electoral process”.
Asking one of the lawyers representing the petitioners to “test his conduct”, the court questioned why it took them so much of time to act. “This is a matter of law. Can you find fault with the Election Commission (EC) when citizens do not even read the final voters’ list,” the court asked.
The court was told by the petitioners’ lawyers that over 2 lakh names were deleted from the lists in Mumbai city and suburbs and Pune. The lawyer representing actor Amol Palekar and a few others urged the court to grant “appropriate relief” under its jurisdiction.
Senior counsel A A Kumbhakoni, representing two Mumbai-based NGOs Action for Good Governance and Networking In India (AGNI) and Birthright, said re-polling should be held for those who could not vote. He said the result of the re-polls could be declared only at constituencies where candidates lose or win by slender margins.
Stating that there were cases during the last Lok Sabha elections where candidates had lost by a margin of 2,000-3,000 votes only, Kumbhakoni submitted: “If the margin of votes between the winner and the next best candidate is lesser than the number of deleted voters in a particular constituency, such (re-poll) votes can be considered.”
The lawyers also argued that the EC did not issue showcause notices to the voters before deleting their names.
The court, while noting down submissions of the lawyers for an interim relief, said there would have to be a detailed inquiry and each case would require introspection.
Meanwhile, the EC Tuesday filed an affidavit in the court saying due process of law was followed while deleting the names of voters and that the latter were notified about it.
Advocate General Darius Khambatta, amicus curiae in the case, said the EC would also submit the panchnamas showing that verification of voters was carried out.
The hearing will continue on Wednesday when the court is likely to pass an order on interim relief sought by the petitioners.
Pune District Collector Saurabh Rao was present at the hearing on Tuesday. Pune’s Bhai Vivek Chavan, too, has filed a general petition in the court seeking directions to the authorities to hold re-polling for them before the results are declared.