6 Feb 2023 1:53 PM GMT
In a petition challenging the free supply of electoral rolls through hard copies (as per Section 78A and Section 78B of the Representation of the People Act, 1951), CJI DY Chandrachud enquired why the Election Commission of India gave hardcopies of electoral rolls to political parties instead of giving electronic copies. The matter was listed before a bench comprising Chief Justice...
In a petition challenging the free supply of electoral rolls through hard copies (as per Section 78A and Section 78B of the Representation of the People Act, 1951), CJI DY Chandrachud enquired why the Election Commission of India gave hardcopies of electoral rolls to political parties instead of giving electronic copies. The matter was listed before a bench comprising Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice PS Narasimha, and Justice JB Pardiwala.
At the outset, CJI DY Chandrachud remarked–
"Tell us something – why does the Election Commission of India have to give hardcopies of electoral rolls to parties, when you have the internet, when you have electronic means to do this. The whole world is now operating on the electronic mode. Why does the election commission does not? You are such a forward-looking body. Make changes."
The CJI also highlighted that as per the petition, the amount which was spent per year was Rs 47 crores and 57,600 trees were destroyed because of this practice.
The counsel for ECI argued–
"The whole basis of this case is completely wrong on one premise. What he says is, he gives a picture as if two hardcopies are being provided under both the sections. That is absolutely wrong. It is one softcopy and one hardcopy. We cannot provide an image in soft copy because then the duplicity, data profiling stuff can also happen. It can be opened anywhere. The difficulty with the soft copy is that it can be misused."
To this, CJI DY Chandrachud asked–
"Why can't the hardcopy be misused?"
Counsel for ECI responded–
"It will take time – hardcopy to convert it into a soft copy...because the images are not in the softcopy. Images are only available in the hardcopy. Otherwise data profiling will be very easy. That is the difficulty...When photograph is not there to profile, it becomes little difficult. Of my name there maybe 10 people. If my photograph is taken then anyone can take it and know where I live."
The bench was then apprised of the fact that the same petition had also been instituted in the High Court of Delhi and that the petitioner before the Apex court was appearing as counsel for the petitioner before the Delhi High Court. While noting that this fact should have been disclosed to the court, CJI DY Chandrachud dictated the following order–
"In view of the pendency of the proceedings for the Delhi High Court, we are not entertaining the petition at the present stage. Since the petition is pending before the Delhi High Court, we should clarify that no opinion has been expressed by this court on the merits of the case. The petition is dismissed."
Case Title: Hargyan Singh Gahlot And Anr. v. UoI And Anr. WP(C) No. 619/2022