SC Stays Uttarakhand HC Order Restraining Criticism Against Election Commission

The Supreme Court, on Friday, stayed the Uttarakhand High Court order restraining all political parties, NGOs and individuals from criticizing the use of EVMs in the recently conducted elections of the State Assemblies.

A Bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud also sought response from the Election Commission of India (ECI), on the petition filed by a State Congress leader Dr. Ramesh Pandey.

The High Court had, earlier in June, condemned the tendency to question the credibility of the ECI by leveling “unsubstantiated allegations” vis-à-vis EVMs. It had observed that the uncalled-for criticism of the ECI has a deleterious effect on its functioning, and the same may result in lowering its morale.

“It is the duty of the Courts to preserve, promote, nurture and maintain independence of constitutional bodies and to insulate them from unhealthy criticism. The foundation of democracy would be weakened in case this tendency, on the part of certain sections of the society to damage the institution by leveling unsubstantiated allegations, is not curbed. The right of freedom of speech and expression does not permit to level unsubstantiated charges against the functionaries of the constitutional bodies,” a Bench comprising Justice S.K. Sharma and Justice Rajiv Sharma had observed.

Dr. Pandey has now challenged this order before the Apex Court, contending that it was “not necessary in the absence of any plea as to the reasonableness/unreasonableness of criticism being levelled in respect of use of EVMs, for the high court to pass such restraining order”.

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