NOTING THAT a “systematic campaign (was) launched by political parties to tarnish the image” of the Election Commission of India (EC), which is a “constitutional body”, the Uttarakhand High Court on Friday dismissed a petition questioning the constitutionality of the poll panel’s “EVM challenge”. The court observed that the challenge must be left “to the wisdom of the Election Commission”.
“In the larger public interest,” the division bench of Justices Rajiv Sharma and Sharad Kumar Sharma said, “restrain all recognised national political parties, recognised state political parties, other political parties, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and individuals from criticising the use of EVMs in the recently conducted elections…even by approaching the electronic media, press, radio, Facebook, Twitter… till decision of the election petitions.”
Soon after the judgment, the Commission said the EVM challenge, scheduled for Saturday with representatives from the CPI(M) and NCP taking part in it, is “on”, PTI reported from Delhi. The court also asked political parties, among others, not to make unsubstantiated claims in the media on EC, or the functioning of EVMs. The court also stated that if the challenge is held, it “must not” affect the outcome of petitions filed in different courts on the recent Assembly election results.
“We leave it to the wisdom/discretion of the Election Commission of India to hold the demonstration/challenge on June 3, but with a caveat that even after it is held, as scheduled, it will not affect the outcome of the pending election petitions,” the court observed. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), among the trenchant critics of EVMs used in the recent round of Assembly polls, said that it will organise its own EVM challenge at the party office in Delhi on Saturday after the EC rejected its “open hackathon” request. The party said it will invite wizards and technical experts from political parties, the EC, and also companies which provide the voting machines to the poll panel for the challenge, PTI reported.
After the EC’s May 20 decision to hold the EVM challenge, Congress’s Uttarakhand unit vice-president Ramesh Pandey had filed a PIL in High Court on May 31, pleading that the challenge be quashed by the court. He told The Indian Express, “At least six writ petitions challenging results of the Uttarakhand Assembly polls are pending in High Court. If the EC, which has no constitutional right to intrude in post-result disputes, intervenes by way of an EVM challenge, then results of the pending petitions might be affected. So it was important to move the court against the (EC’s EVM) challenge.”
“The EVM challenge is on as scheduled. The NCP and the CPI(M) have nominated three persons each for the challenge,” an EC spokesperson was quoted by PTI. He said the two parties will get separate halls to try and tamper with the machines. The challenge will take place between 10 am and 2 pm, the poll panel said.