- The Supreme Court has sought the Election Commission’s response on a plea which has asked the apex court to strike down Section 49MA under Conduct of Elections Rules,1961.
- The Election Commission(EC) in his response has defended strict punishment and penalty for questioning Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT).It said that Section 49MA is necessary to ensure that mischievous elements do not make false complaints that may hinder the electoral process.
- According to Section 49MA of the Code of Election Rules,1961 if a person files a complaint regarding discrepancy in the EVM and if after investigation it is found to be false or incorrect,then the complainant can be prosecuted under Section 177 of the Indian Penal Code for furnishing false information.This section invites six months in jail or a fine of Rs 1,000 or both.
- The petitioner in its plea had said that Section 49MA was unconstitutional as it criminalised reporting of malfunctioning of EVM or VVPATs.The plea contended that the onus of proving an allegation cannot be on a voter when machines used for voting showed deviant behaviour.
- Further,the petitioner had also said that Section 49 MA deters people from coming forth to complain.The rule infringes upon a citizen’s right to freedom of expression which is a fundamental right of free expression guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.
- EVM or Electronic Voting Machines are used to cast vote without revealing voter’s identity. It is attached by a cable to an electronic ballot box. It comprises of two units – control unit and balloting unit. The control unit is with the Election Commission selected polling officer while the Balloting Unit is in the voting section into which the voter enters to cast their vote.
- Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) is an independent system attached to an Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) that allows the voters to verify that their votes are cast as intended. It helps to detect any possible election fraud or malfunction of EVMs.
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