SC Rejects Congress’ Plea on Electoral Rolls

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed Congress leader Kamal Nath’s plea for soft copies of the draft electoral rolls in text mode format for the Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections in November to avoid foul play.

A bench of Justice A.K. Sikri and Justice Ashok Bhushan rejected the plea even as the petitioner contended that there were over 50 lakh duplicate voters in the voters list.

The court also declined a similar plea by Rajasthann Congress Committee chief Sachin Pilot.

Holding that it finds force in the Election Commission argument that a clause in its manual talks about draft electoral rolls in text mode, Justice Sikri said in the judgment: “The clause nowhere says that the draft electoral roll has to be put up on the Chief Electoral Officer’s website in a ‘searchable PDF’.”

“Therefore, the petitioner cannot claim, as a right, that the draft electoral roll should be placed on the website in a ‘searchable mode’. It has only to be in ‘text mode’ and it is so provided,” the judgment said.

“Once we find that Clause does not entitle the petitioner to get the draft electoral roll in the text mode which is searchable as well viz. in ‘full text search’ form, it is for the ECI to decide about the format in which the draft electoral roll is to be published,” the court said while rejecting the claim by petitioner Kamal Nath, who is head of Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee.

The Election Commission (EC) had earlier deleted 24 lakh voters from the state’s electoral rolls but refused to give voters lists in text mode, contending privacy issue of personal data of the voters.

But the Congress had said that the poll panel had already given electoral rolls in text mode in Rajasthan and prior to that in Karnataka and in 2013 in Madhya Pradesh also and why not now.

The EC responded that it has already taken action against the Chief Electoral Officer in Rajasthan for providing the voters list in text mode.

It also said that the panel has amended its manual to stop giving electoral rolls in text mode to prevent the scanning of the voters lists.

The court also rejected the prayer of both Kamal Nath and Sachin Pilot for conducting Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) verification on random basis for 10 per cent of the selected polling stations in each Assembly constituency to ensure free and fair elections.

The top court cited its October 30, 2017 order wherein similar plea was decided.

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