Supreme Court Law Insider

Aastha Thakur

Published on: 24 September 2022 at 22:23 IST

The petition has been placed before the Supreme Court of India seeking a common electoral roll for parliamentary, assembly and local body polls.

The plea was filed by MG Devasahayam, pleading to compensate people who were denied the right to vote due to deletion from the voters’ list.

The counsel representing petitioners submitted that there are many incidents where people go to the voting booth and they find their name missing from the voter’s list. There should be a pre-requisite requirement of furnishing notice before the deletion of a name from a voter’s list.

On this, the bench comprising of Justices KM Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy stated that it was already a part of procedure. The counsel then highlights that it is not being followed properly.

The Court still insists that it is already a part of the statutory provision provided under the law. The bench was flummoxed as to whether the law needed to be declared again.

Counsel submits that Rule 18 of the Registration of Electors Rules, 1960 allows confirmation of objections to inclusion in voters’ lists without any inquiry. It is the main contention raised by the petitioner.

The Court directs to serve a copy of the PIL to the Centre and the ECI, stating that they have total faith in the officers of the Election Commission.

The petition basically states that the right to vote is one of the basic fundamental rights given to citizens of India and that deprivation of the right to vote not only interferes with the conduct of free and fair elections but also goes against the right granted under the Constitution of India. And there have been many instances when citizens have been stopped from voting due to the deletion of voter data from the electoral roll.

“This is very confusing for voters, particularly in instances where their names may have been present on one electoral roll and absent on another. Such deletions are unfortunately very frequent, and notwithstanding whether such deletions are malicious or inadvertent, they ultimately result in the deprivation of a citizen’s right to vote.”

Further, it is submitted that the Electoral Registration Officers have a duty to ensure that all eligible voters’ names are present on the electoral rolls.

“That if certain populations are excluded from electoral rolls because of their social and economic disadvantage, it amounts to their disenfranchisement and the denial to them of their most fundamental right in a democracy, namely to cast their vote during general, state, municipal and panchayat elections.”

The deletion of citizens’ data from the electoral roll defeats the very purpose and objective of the Representative Act, 1950 and allows unregulated misuse of powers conferred on the Registration Officer.

Another issue taken up by the petitioner is related to the linkage of Aadhar cards and voter IDs.

The confirmation of voter data on the basis of Aadhar card clearly created confusion-as both of the government IDs have different objectives and benefits. Whereas Voter ID is a document issued by a constitutional authority and its linkage would only promote malicious influencing of voters based on psychometric profiling of voter communities, the petition said.

“That such linking is not provided for in either the Aadhar Act or the Representation of People Acts, 1950 and 1951 and is thus unconstitutional.”

It cannot be the responsibility of the former to determine whether a voter’s name is still on the Electoral Roll or has been removed. The petition stated that it is a laborious effort for a voter to search through several hundred pages of the electoral rolls to confirm his inclusion on the list.

Due to the impending assembly elections in numerous states later this year, the petition asked that the prayers be taken quickly. Among the prayers are:

To declare Rule 18 of the Registration of Electors Rules, 1960 as unconstitutional as it allows confirmation of objections to inclusion in voters’ lists without any inquiry.

To direct the Election Commission to appoint senior civil servants from outside a particular State / UT as Special Observers to oversee the electoral registration process to ensure accuracy and objectivity.

The case is most likely to be heard next on November 21.

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