We cannot permit political parties to lower down the image and prestige of the constitutional body, the bench said.
Coming down heavily on the tendency to question the credibility of Election Commission of India by levelling ‘unsubstantial allegations’ vis-à-vis electronic voting machines, the Uttarakhand High Court has restrained all political parties and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and individuals from criticising the use of EVMs in the recently conducted elections of the state assemblies even by approaching the electronic media, press, radio, Facebook, Twitter etc. till the decision of the election petitions filed in that regard.
Dismissing a plea filed by a Congress party leader, a bench comprising Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Sharad Kumar Sharma observed that the uncalled-for criticism of the functioning of Election Commission has a deleterious effect on its functioning and the same may result in lowering its morale.
Dr. Ramesh Pandey had approached the high court against the ECI’s decision to hold a ‘challenge to EVMs’, contending that the demonstration of EVMs functioning may influence the outcome of election petitions.
Starting today, the Election Commission has invited recognised political parties to an “Electronic Voting (EVM) Challenge” to demonstrate that the machine can be, or were, during the five recent Assembly elections, tampered with.
“The right of freedom of speech and expression does not permit to level unsubstantiated charges against the functionaries of the constitutional bodies,” said the court observing that It is it duty to preserve, promote, nurture and maintain independence of constitutional bodies and to insulate them from unhealthy criticism.
“The faith of the people in the election process is required to be restored at all costs. Holding of free and fair election is a basic feature of the constitution,” the court added.
The court also criticised the Election Commission’s decision to hold a challenge to the EVMs on 3.6.2017, when high courts are seized of the matter. The demonstration/ challenge to EVMs may influence the outcome of election petitions wittingly or unwittingly, the court observed.
However, the court allowed the Election Commission of India to hold the demonstration/challenge, but with a caveat that even after it is held, as scheduled, it will not affect the outcome of the pending election petitions.
Read the Judgment here.