SC seeks Centre, EC reply on plea for e-voting

The Supreme Court on Thursday sought a response from the government and the Election Commission on a plea seeking introduction of e-voting, decentralising the voting system, and enhancing the system of postal voting to other categories.

A bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and comprising Justices A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian asked advocate Kaleeswaram Raj: “How can law help you, if you are not in your constituency to cast vote? If the voter does not wish to come to the constituency, and also there is no denial of voting?”

Raj, representing petitioner K. Sathyan, a native of Kerala, said the electoral law needs to be brought in tune with the modern times and technology. The petitioner suggested evolving an OTP system for the purpose of fault-free identification of voters without infringing privacy rights.

“Providing double databases for transactions, namely a central database and a local database, which would drastically reduce the chance for manipulation of data and the EVMs, enhancing the existing system of postal voting to other categories by expanding the scope of certain classes of people occurring in Section 60 of the 1951 Act,” said the plea.

The plea contended that students, NRIs, migrant workers and employees cannot be deprived of their right to vote merely because they are unable to be physically present in their respective constituencies.

The Chief Justice asked the counsel, “What is the nature of this plea, sitting in England, you will vote here? If you can’t care enough to go to your constituency why should law help you?”

Raj argued that denying postal ballot, e-voting facility etc, to internal migrant labourers, employees, students and business professionals stationed outside the constituency, as well as NRIs and overseas migrant labourers is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution.

After a brief hearing in the matter, the top court agreed to examine the plea and issued notice to the central government and the Election Commission.

“It is submitted that logistic concerns are not a ground to curtail the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution. Extension of remote voting facilities to armed forces personnel, service electors and now even to the NRIs show that there is a logistical possibility in grant of remote voting facilities to migrant labourers, employees, students and business professionals stationed outside their constituency, NRIs and overseas migrant labourers,” said the plea.