A WEEK after the Uttarakhand High Court ordered the sealing of EVMs used in seven constituencies in the state, the Election Commission of India on Tuesday filed an affidavit, urging the court to “recall” its order since it would “erode public confidence” in the commission. Seeking a “modification” in the HC order “so that there is no requirement of additional seal of Judicial Magistrate (on EVMs)”, the affidavit filed by Vijay Kumar Pandey, Director (Law), Election Commission of India, also said that the sealing of the EVMs is “in violation of the Constitutional mandate” given to the commission.
The EVMs were sealed following election petitions by Congress candidates who had submitted “circumstantial evidence” alleging that the elections were “rigged” as EVMs allotted at “many booths were not the ones that were actually used during voting”. Commenting on the EC’s affidavit, Congress leader Navprabhat, who is among the seven candidates who have filed petitions, said: “This is an unusual demand by the EC. It also means an admission of guilt. Why do they want the seal of the judicial magistrate to be removed?”
Submitting that the HC order of sealing the EVMs is “in violation of the Constitutional mandate granted and vested in the ECI”, the commission on Tuesday told the court that “the direction of this Honorable Court that the additional seal of the Judicial Magistrate also be put would create a serious doubt in the minds of the citizen of India insofar as the independence and impartiality of the ECI is concerned, which is of paramount importance”.
“The public confidence in the functioning of the ECI would not only be shaken, but completely eroded,” it said, noting that it is “necessary to restore the reputation of the ECI by removing the requirement” of the seal of the judicial magistrate. “If the present application is not allowed,” the EC wrote, “the mandate granted” to the EC “under the Constitution of India would also be violated”.
In its affidavit, the EC also referred to its guidelines that “if the EVMs are subject of the election petition”, they shall be “kept in the safe custody of the Distrit Election Officer”, till the petition is disposed of. It contended that “the ECI is the actual custodian of the voting machines/EVMs during and after the period of elections as mandated by the Constitution of India”.
Earlier, ordering the judicial magistrate to seal the EVMs, the court had issued notices to the Centre, EC, State Election Commission, District Election Officer, Returning Officer and winning candidate to respond within six weeks.
The seven seats where EVMs have been seized are Vikasnagar, Rajpur Road, BHEL Ranipur, Raipur, Mussoorie, Pratapnagar and Haridwar Rural.