‘USE EVMs, VVPATs SYSTEMS IN HARYANA CIVIC POLLS’
SUPREME COURT JUDGMENT MANDATES FOOLPROOF METHOD
The process for General Elections to 46 Municipalities (18 Municipal Councils and 28 Municipal Committees) in the State of Haryana has commenced today i.e. May 30, 2022 with the initiation of filing of nominations by prospective candidates which would continue till June 4.
The scrutiny of nominations would be on June 6 while the last date for withdrawal of candidature is June 7.
The polling will be conducted on June 19 and the counting shall take place on June 22. Pertinent that Municipal General Elections in the State are conducted by State Election Commission (SEC), Haryana.
The State Election Commissioner as well as senior functionaries of the State Government including of Urban Local Bodies Department has been requested to take an immediate call so as to ensure that the Voting in aforesaid Civic Elections, which is scheduled to be conducted via Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), as also announced by SEC, the same must be with usage of Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) mechanism.
The Supreme Court of India in its judgement titled Dr. Subramanian Swamy vs Election Commission Of India (Oct, 2013) has recognized that the incorporation and implementation of a system of paper trail in EVMs is an indispensable requirement of a free and fair elections.
Ever since the pronouncement aforesaid verdict of the Apex Court mandating usage of VVPAT along with EVMs, the Election Commission of India (ECI) in a phased manner has implemented the inclusive EVM-VVPAT mechanism across the country during elections/bye-elections to Lok Sabha and all State Assemblies. The Central Government on its part also suitably amended Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 to facilitate usage of VVPAT along with EVMs.
Three years ago in May-June 2019 during General Elections for the current 17th Lok Sabha, such a system was used in all 543 Parliamentary Constituencies (PCs) across the country.
Moreover, the ECI has also been meticulously complying with another Judgment of the Supreme Court titled N. Chandrababu Naidu & Others Vs Union of India (Apr,2019) wherein Court ordered mandatory verification of VVPAT generated paper slips out of 5 randomly selected polling stations in each Assembly Constituency/Segments after completion of the last round of counting of votes recorded in the EVMs.
Two months ago in March, 2022, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) through Saurabh Bhardwaj, present MLA of Delhi Assembly approached Delhi High Court by filing a Writ Petition urging the Court to give a direction to SEC, Delhi for conduct of General Elections to then three Municipal Corporations (North, South and East MCs) in Delhi which were then scheduled in April-May, 2022 by usage of VVPAT along with EVMs. The Delhi High Court issued notice to ECI and SEC, Delhi seeking their response in this regard. Although, thereafter due to passage of Delhi Municipal Corporation (Amendment) Bill, 2022 by both Houses of Parliament which aims at re-unification/re-integration of aforesaid three MCs into single entity, as was the case before the year 2012, the next MCD General Elections have got delayed however the Delhi High Court is nevertheless seized of the issue pertaining to directing the SEC, Delhi for usage of VVPAT along with EVMs in forthcoming MCD Elections. The next date of hearing is scheduled for Sep 2, 2022.
Although the Haryana Government has till date not incorporated the mechanism of VVPAT in Haryana Municipal Election Rules even after more than 8 years of SC Judgment in Dr. Subramanian Swamy’s case (2013) due to reasons best known to it, yet the SEC, Haryana which is a Constitutional body under Article 243 ZA under Constitution of India vested with powers regarding the superintendence, direction and control of Elections to all the Municipalities in the State, can very much on its own take a decision by issuance of an Order or otherwise for usage of VVPAT along with EVMs in ensuing Civic Polls in Haryana which is even otherwise mandatory in terms of Supreme Court Judgment as cited above.