The Election Commission may “revisit” a rule that provides for prosecution of an elector if a complaint of EVM and VVPAT machine malfunction turns out to be false, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora has said.
“Now that the current elections are over, we will probably be discussing it internally whether it should be modified, softened etc … we may revisit it,” he told PTI.
Arora was responding to a question on the penal provision which many feel is unwarranted.
A voter who claims that the electronic voting machine (EVM) or the paper trail machine did not recorded his or her vote correctly is allowed to cast a test vote under Rule 49 MA of the Conduct of Election Rules.
But, if the voter fails to prove the mismatch, poll officials can initiate action against the complainant under section 177 of the Indian Penal Code.
Section 177 applies in the case as it deals with giving false submission.
The IPC section states that the person “shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both…”
The EC has all along maintained that if there is no penal provision, people may make false claims.
The penal provision is used as “an exception very very very rarely”, Arora said.
He said the intention of the provision must have been to “discourage” those who want to “disrupt” the electoral process by making such complaints.
In April, the Supreme Court had sought a response from the poll panel on a plea seeking setting aside the rule which provides for prosecution of an elector if the complaint alleging malfunctioning of EVMs and VVPAT machines eventually turns out to be false.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi took note of the plea, which alleged that Rule 49MA of ‘The Conduct of Elections Rules’ was unconstitutional as it criminalises reporting of malfunctioning of EVMs and Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines.
The plea alleged that putting the onus on the elector in cases of arbitrary deviant behaviour of machines used in election process, infringes upon a citizen’s right to freedom of expression under the Constitution.
The petition said that presently, the burden of proof, rests on the elector for reporting any deviant behaviour of EVMs and VVPAT machines, who will face criminal charges irrespective of whether the complaint was truthful and honest.
According to EC officials, it takes 20 to 30 minutes to go through and settle complaints about VVPAT machines showing incorrect result.