- The debate on the reliability of electronic voting machines (EVMs) refuses to settle, with political parties continuing to voice their concerns about malfunctioning machines.
Only important take away:
The Supreme Court refused to bar politicians who face serious criminal charges from contesting elections.
For the last 20 years, the Election Commission, besides civil society, has been demanding that people who face criminal cases of a serious nature, which are pending, should be debarred from contesting elections. Even the Law Commission has demanded this.
The Election Commission’s response to this has been to ensure three safeguards:
- One, that every criminal case will not debar you [from contesting]; only heinous offences which carry imprisonment of five years or more will.
- Two, the FIR should have been registered at least six months before the election so that a case is not filed on the eve of the election.
- Three, a court of law should have framed the charges. The court of law in case of heinous offences would be the district and sessions court, which means the highest court below the high court.
Surely it is the prerogative of Parliament to legislate?
- Of course. But let us now examine the legal maxim, innocent until proven guilty. There are four lakh prisoners in Indian jails today — 71% are undertrials. Yet, you have taken away four of their fundamental rights: the right to liberty, freedom of movement, freedom of occupation, and freedom of dignity. And the legal right to vote as well. If, under the presumption of innocence, you can take away their fundamental rights, what is the big deal about taking away the right to contest, which is not even a fundamental right? Why doesn’t the same presumption apply to undertrials?
The controversy surrounding EVMs refuses to die down:
- EVMs are good and they have done India proud.
- However, they are machines — sometimes they malfunction.
- Out of 20 lakh machines in operation, a few hundred or thousand can malfunction.
- For these there is a clearly defined protocol: replace them within half an hour.
Enough to switch the fortunes of a party when cleverly manipulated?
- When there is malfunctioning, it doesn’t mean rigging or cheating.
- As soon as defects are detected, the machines have to be replaced within half an hour, for which reserved machines are kept in place.
- Twenty per cent reserve machines are on standby.
- In cities, these extra machines are kept in a roving vehicle so that they can reach a booth within half an hour following a complaint. In rural and remote areas, the extra machines are placed in the booth itself.
- Every single machine is individually tested and subjected to a mock poll thrice.
Introduction of VVPAT:
- Every EVM now has a printer attached.
- This printer has a screen on which the selected candidate appears — his face, name and symbol — and stays there for seven seconds, which is enough time to register the correctness of the vote.
- Then the slip drops into a sealed box to be counted for cross-checking when required.
- In the last four years, nearly 800 such machines have been counted. Not one mismatch has been reported.
View on the dissolution of the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly and the role of the Governor:
- In the present context, when Governors have become too political, the powers of the Governor should be clearly defined, according to the recommendations of the Sarkaria Commission. They should invite the party with the largest numbers to form the government, failing which [they should invite] the combination of parties claiming the largest numbers.
- In Jammu and Kashmir it seems that a political coalition, however disparate, was coming into place.
- In the famous Bommai judgment, the Supreme Court had clearly held that the question of majority can only be tested on the floor of the House, not in a Raj Bhavan.
- Electoral bonds have taken away whatever little transparency there was. The only little good that has come out of it is that cash donations have been replaced by banking transactions.
- The Finance Minister had stated in his Budget speech that for seven decades, efforts to achieve transparency of political funding have not succeeded, without which free and fair elections are not possible.
- After these fine statements one expected transparency in political funding, to know which corporate has paid how much to which party so that quid pro quo could be known.
- Electoral bonds have made the whole transaction secretive and opaque. Only the government knows who gave how much to which party. Crony capitalism has been legalised and institutionalised.