1 Sep 2021 2:08 PM GMT
The Election Commission of India has approached the Supreme Court praying before it to fix a timeline for filing Election Petitions while the Orders passed by it extending the normal statutory period of limitation on account of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be in force.An IA has been filed by ECI for fixing a timeline for filing Election Petitions in the States/Union Territories of...
The Election Commission of India has approached the Supreme Court praying before it to fix a timeline for filing Election Petitions while the Orders passed by it extending the normal statutory period of limitation on account of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be in force.
An IA has been filed by ECI for fixing a timeline for filing Election Petitions in the States/Union Territories of Assam, Kerala, NCT of Delhi, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, as in absence of the same, all EVMs used in these States/Union Territories are currently stuck or unable to be used/deployed for upcoming elections.
"It is trite to mention that the Election Commission of India releases for reuse only those EVMs which have been used in constituencies in respect of which no Election Petition/Writ Petition has been filed raising any EVM related issue", the application adds.
The Supreme Court had passed an order on March 23, 2020, directing that the period of limitation in all such proceedings, irrespective of the limitation prescribed under the general law or Special Laws whether condonable or not stood extended w.e.f. 15th March 2020 till further order/s on account of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thereafter, noticing that the country was returning to normalcy, the extension of limitation was regulated and brought to an end by order dated March 8, 2021.
The Supreme Court Advocate on Record Association (SCAORA) filed an Interlocutory Application highlighting the daily surge in COVID cases in Delhi and sought restoration of the aforementioned Order dated March 23, 2020 and the Supreme Court went on to restore the effect of its earlier order on April 27, 2021.
Filed through Advocate Amit Sharma, the application submits that the Election petitions may not have been filed as yet in the concerned states because of the Order passed by the Supreme Court on April 27 this year.
".....the statutory period for filing Election Petitions as prescribed under the Representation of the People Act, 1951 has also been relaxed. Resultantly, all the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail machines (VVPATs) belonging to the Election Commission of India that were used in recently held Assembly Elections are blocked and cannot be used in future/upcoming elections."
Apart from the statutory provisions mentioned under Representation of the People Act, 1951 and Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961 pertaining to Election Petitions and EVMs/VVPATs, the application further relies on the Instruction dated July 15, 2016, issued by the Election Commission of India to the Chief Electoral Officers (CEOs) of all States and Union Territories regarding the period of retention of EVMs used in elections.
The ECI has stated that it is unable to use a substantial number of EVMs which is a cause for concern as it is scheduled to conduct assembly elections in a few states next year as the term of Legislative Assemblies of Goa, Manipur, Uttarakhand, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh are coming to an end in 2022.
With a view to ensure proper physical distancing during polls, the Commission had restricted the number of electors in a polling station to 1000 in the latest elections. Therefore, additional polling stations were created in the polling stations where number of electors was more than 1000.
Hence, relying on this logic, the Commission submits that around 10 37.73% additional polling stations would need to be created in the upcoming elections.
"Moreover, it is humbly submitted that in order to conduct General Elections to State Legislative Assemblies, generally 135% EVMs and 145% VVPATs (on total polling stations) are provided to States. With expected increase of polling stations, requirement of EVMs and VVPATs may also be further increased i.e. 51% additional EVMs and 55% additional VVPATs need to be allocated in addition to normal requirement of EVMs and VVPATs in these States", it is added.
'Serious logistical challenges' have also been cited, which may also lead to delay in First Level Checking of EVMs and VVPATs in the five poll States.
Moreover, the preparatory work to conduct the upcoming elections, like the movement of requisite quantity of EVMs and VVPATs ought to have started in July, 2021 itself so that First Level Checking of EVMs and VVPATs, which is a mandatory process, could start from the first week of September, 2021, states the application.