EC moves SC to issue EVMs and VVPATs for upcoming assembly polls
New Delhi: Uncertainty remains over next year’s assembly elections in Punjab, UP, Goa, Uttarakhand and Manipur with the Election Commission demanding timely release of EVMs and VVPATs used in state elections last year and this year. Approached the Supreme Court, which has been kept safe. Detention in anticipation of filing of election petition.
By law, EVMs are to be kept untouched and protected for 45 days from the declaration of the result, which is the time limit for a loser candidate to file an election petition challenging the results. If no election petition is filed within the limitation period (45 days), the EVMs can be issued for reuse in subsequent elections.
The problem before the Election Commission stems from a Supreme Court order which, keeping in view the difficulties arising out of the COVID pandemic, had extended the limitation period indefinitely since the disease hit the country in March last year.
This means that all election results declared within 45 days of the lockdown imposed in March last year due to the pandemic will still be open to challenge by defeated candidates. Thus, all the EVMs deployed for the assembly elections in Assam, Kerala, Delhi, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal could not be reused, unless the Supreme Court gave the mandate to file election petitions related to these elections. No specific time period was specified.
Senior advocate Vikas Singh mentioned the application of the Election Commission before a bench headed by CJI NV Ramana and sought an urgent hearing while expressing concern of the election panel about the uncertainty about next year’s state elections. Considering that around 4.5 lakh EVMs were used. The assembly elections this year and last year are locked. The bench agreed to list the application at the earliest.
The Election Commission, in its application filed through advocate Amit Sharma, said, “Every Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) used in the election and kept in the custody of the District Election Officer shall be subject to the standard protocol of security, subject to confirmation of inclination. will be kept isolated. After the completion of the election petition filing period, i.e. 45 days after the declaration of the result, the status of the election petition from the concerned High Court. “
“In case of elections, where no election petition has been filed or any other court case is pending, after the said period of 45 days, EVMs may be used for any future election or for any other purpose such as agitation, physical movement of EVMs, etc. can be done for verification. In case of any election where an election petition has been filed, the following action shall be taken:- (i) If the EVMs are the subject of the election petition, the EVMs to be used at all the polling stations in the constituency concerned shall be kept in the same will continue. Safe custody of the District Election Officer, until the election petition is finally disposed of by the Court. (ii) If the EVMs are not the subject of election petition, to the concerned court to allow the concerned EVMs to be taken out of the strong room for any future election or agitation, for any other purpose like physical verification of EVMs application can be made. etc,” said the EC.
It said, “Due to the SC order dated April 27, the statutory period for filing election petition as prescribed under the Representation of the People Act, 1951 has also been relaxed. Consequently, all EVMs and VVPATs belonging to the Election Commission of India which were used in the recently held assembly elections have been blocked and cannot be used in future/upcoming elections.”
The Election Commission said that 4.6 EVMs and 4 lakh VVPATs will be required for the assembly elections to be held in five states next year. It said that it has a stock of 1.4 lakh EVMs and one lakh VVPATs and hence to conduct the elections next year, 3.2 lakh EVMs and 3 lakh VVPATs will be required, which were used in the earlier state elections.
“Therefore, in order to meet the requirement of the upcoming election states, if EVMs remain stuck in the States/UTs of Assam, Kerala, NCT of Delhi, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal due to the order of April 27 passed by this Court, So EVMs and VVPATs will have to be shifted from all the States/UTs to these five electoral states, which can lead to serious logistical challenges, leading to delay in the first level verification of EVMs and VVPATs.
“The preparatory work for conducting the above elections, such as movement of required quantity of EVMs and VVPATs, should have started in July, 2021 itself, so that the first level checking of EVMs and VVPATs, which is a mandatory process, could begin from the first week. May-September, 2021,” it said.