The Election Commission of India (ECI) on Tuesday asserted before the Supreme Court its supremacy in matters relating to elections, and took objection to the Congress party trying to interfere with the process by filing writ petitions like the one before it.
The submissions were made by the ECI on the petition filed by Senior Congress leader Kamal Nath seeking random verification of Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines in the ensuing Assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh.
In a counter-affidavit filed by the ECI, it submits, “Thus, it is neither tenable nor proper that the Petitioner (and the political party/organization to which he is affiliated) is trying to forcibly instruct the Election Commission of India as to how to conduct elections or is trying to impose his suggestions (or that of his political party/organization) upon the Election Commission of India.
The Election Commission of India is open to suggestions by all political parties and the suggestions made by the Petitioner and the political party/organization to which he is affiliated, have already been duly considered by the Election Commission of India. However, the ultimate decision making authority with respect to conduct of elections rests with the Election Commission of India and it cannot be compelled to accept all suggestions made by the Petitioner and the political party/organization to which he is affiliated.”
It further assures the court that the ECI is well aware of the measures needed to be taken by it for updation of the electoral roll, effective deployment of EVMs with VVPATs, safety and security of VVPATs, etc. in respect of the upcoming State Legislative Assembly elections and that all necessary measures have already been or will be taken by it.
Asserting that the framing of appropriate rules, regulations and guidelines for conducting elections through VVPAT lies in the ECI’s domain and “ought not to be interfered with”, it contends, “It is submitted that it is not within the jurisdiction or domain of the Petitioner and/or his party/organization to question the measures taken by the Election Commission of India with regard to the aforementioned issues.
The Petitioner and the political party to which he stands affiliated cannot approach this Hon'ble Court time and again so as to re-agitate the same issue and interfere in the functioning of a Constitutional Authority such as the Election Commission of India and more particularly, cannot seek to instruct or direct the Election Commission of India to conduct elections (including implementation of VVPAT) in a particular manner.”
In its affidavit, at the outset, ECI submits that the petition is not maintainable, challenging Mr. Nath’s reliance on the Supreme Court order passed in December last year in the case of Mohd. Arif Rajput Vs. the Election Commission of India Nirvachan Sadan & Ors. It contends that the Court had granted permission to withdraw that petition and file a property constituted one to the petitioner in that case, i.e. Mohd. Arif Rajput and not to Mr. Nath.
It further brings to the Court’s notice the fact that the All India Congress Committee (AICC), through its member/M.P. (Rajya Sabha), Mr. Vivek K. Tankha had made a representation to the ECI with concerns similar to those raised in the petition. This representation, it says, was responded to with a point-wise detailed answer.
“It is therefore submitted that the present petition is completely misconceived and is a gross abuse of the process of law as the grounds urged by the Petitioner herein (who is a member of AICC) has already been dealt with by the Election Commission of India and, therefore, the present Writ Petition is not maintainable as the Petitioner has failed to disclose the prejudice caused or in what manner the Petitioner or AICC is aggrieved by the reply of Election Commission of India upon the representations of AICC,” it then submits.
The response further goes on to allege that the petitioner has been misleading the court with the portrayal of a few contentions, including those pertaining to the adequacy of the number of VVPAT machines and the malfunctioning VVPAT machines. With regard to increase of visibility time of VVPAT paper trail from 7 seconds to 15 seconds, the ECI submits that not only has it ben upheld by the Supreme Court but is also reasonable enough.
With such submissions, it essentially asserts that all the concerns raised have already been addressed by the court in earlier cases, submitting, “It is, thus, evident from a perusal of the aforementioned paras that the aforementioned issues have already been raised earlier before this Hon'ble Court as well as before certain High Courts and the Courts concerned have dealt with the same appropriately. Thus, it is not open for the Petitioner to once again approach this Hon'ble Court with respect to the same issues, particularly when this Hon'ble Court has already dealt with miscellaneous issues relating to VVPAT, the quality of the thermal paper used, posting of officials, visibility time of VVPAT/paper slips, etc. in the past and passed appropriate orders therein.”
It finally submits that the petition is “completely frivolous and an abuse of the process” of the court, thereby demanding dismissal of the same, contending, “The contents of the said Writ Petition do not disclose any such issue so as to merit this exercise by this Hon’ble Court of its extra-ordinary jurisdiction under Article 32 of the Constitution of India.
It is further submitted that the present Writ Petition ought to be dismissed with costs as the same is an abuse of the process of law, besides being misconceived and malafide, as the Petitioner is seeking to instruct/direct the Election Commission of India, which is a Constitutional Authority, to conduct elections according to his personal whims and fancies and that of the political party to which he stands affiliated.”
Read the Counter Affidavit Here