ECI Clarifies State Election Commission’s Role in General Elections to Delhi High Court

LI Network

Published on: 26 August 2023 at 17:00 IST

The Delhi High Court recently declined to entertain a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) concerning the State Election Commission’s involvement in the “First Level Check” (FLC) of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trails (VVPATs) at eleven district offices in Delhi, intended for use in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

A division bench comprising Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Sanjeev Narula allowed Kumar to withdraw the PIL, granting him permission to file a fresh petition.

This decision was made following the submission by the counsel representing the Election Commission of India (ECI) that the prayers were directed at the State Election Commission, which is not responsible for conducting General Elections.

Senior Advocate Salman Khurshid, representing Kumar, was informed by the Court, “Please look at the body of the petition. All the sentences, all paragraphs…they are directed towards the State Election Commission. Please withdraw this and file a fresh petition.”

The ECI’s counsel also remarked that the petition had been filed in a somewhat casual manner and that Kumar had neither challenged the ECI’s guidelines nor indicated any violations.

Kumar’s plea sought a directive for the State Election Commission to reconvene the FLC of EVMs and VVPATs stored in all 11 district election offices in Delhi.

Additionally, the plea requested the State Election Commission to provide sufficient notice regarding the FLC to enable political parties, including the Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee, to participate.

The petition revealed that the FLC of EVMs and VVPATs in Delhi was scheduled from July 15 to July 30. However, notifications were only sent on July 12 and July 13.

Kumar contended that on July 15, letters were dispatched through DPCC’s authorized representative to all SDMs, requesting the serial numbers and manufacturing company details of the EVMs and VVPATs undergoing FLC at the district election offices.

Stating that none of the SDMs responded to these letters, Kumar asserted that political parties cannot effectively participate in the FLC process without knowledge of the EVMs’ details.

The plea emphasized the necessity for transparent, free, and fair elections, asserting that the machines used for voting must be meticulously verified and endorsed by stakeholders’ representatives.

It further criticized the State Election Commission’s procedure for lacking transparency and questioned how the Election Commission of India could guarantee a fair election if transparency were compromised.

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