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Why in News?

  • The Election Commission may “revisit” the rule for prosecution of a voter for making afalse complaint of malfunction of an electronic voting machine or a voter verifiable paper audit trail machine

Rule 49MA:

  • A voter who claims that the EVM or the VVPAT machine did not record his or her vote correctly is allowed to cast a test vote under Rule 49 MA of the Conduct of Election Rules
  • However, if the voter fails to prove the mismatch, poll officials can initiate action under Section 177 of the Indian Penal Code for giving a ‘false submission’.
  • The Section says the person “shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both
  • EC has maintained that if there is no penal provision, people may make false Claims

Arguments Against the rule:

  • Putting the onus on the elector in cases of arbitrary deviant behaviour of machines used in election process infringes upon a citizen’s right to freedom of expression under the Constitution.
  • Penal Provisions could deter an elector from coming forth and making any complaint which is an essential ingredient in a continuous exercise for improving a process
  • The elector cannot be convicted by the evidence of second vote for the alleged incorrect reporting of the discrepancy in the first vote cast in absolute secrecy, unless and until he himself is made a witness in his own case, in violation of the provision of Article 20(3) of the Constitution
  • Due to the pre programmed deviant behaviour of electronic machines it is not necessary that he can produce the same result
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