Case BriefsHigh Courts

Andhra Pradesh High Court, Amravati: A Division Bench of J.K. Maheshwari, CJ and B. Krishna Mohan, J., addressed a Public Interest Litigation wherein a direction was sought to declare the proclamation, attempt or conduct of Andhra Pradesh State Election Commission in not conducting any election/poll for any post where there is only a single candidate in the fray for such post in any constituency, during the ensuing elections to be held for the members of local governing bodies in lieu of notifications and thereby depriving the electors’ of their right to vote in the form of NOTA against such single candidate.

Andhra Pradesh Panchayat Raj (Conduct of Elections) Rules, 2006

A Public Interest Litigation was filed referring to the amendment introduced in 2018 to the Andhra Pradesh Panchayat Raj (Conduct of Elections) Rules, 2006.

In the above-stated Rules, insertion was Rule 35-A was done after Rule 35, which was as follows:

(1)“Notwithstanding anything contained in these Rules, in the Postal Ballot Papers and in the Ballot papers used for conduct of poll at polling stations with Ballot Boxes or Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), provision shall be made for ‘None of the Above’ (NOTA) option for the benefit of those electors who may wish to exercise their option of not voting to any of the candidates in the fray. The last panel of the ballot paper below the last candidate shall be earmarked for ‘None of the Above’ (NOTA) option.

(2) The State Election Commission may give such directions, as may be necessary, for effective implementation of ‘None of the Above’ (NOTA) option.”

What do the stated Rules say?

In case of  Postal Ballot Papers used for conduct of poll at polling stations with Ballot Boxes or Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), ‘None of the Above’ (NOTA) provision is required to be made.

When can NOTA be exercised?

NOTA applies in case where there is contest of election and as per the language set up in Rule 35-A of the Andhra Pradesh Panchayat Raj (Conduct of Elections) Rules, 2006, when there is an election through Ballot Boxes or EVM’s only then the said option can be exercised.

Hence, Court in view of the fact that, in cases where candidates have been declared uncontested, NOTA cannot be applied, dismissed the present petition. [A.V. Badra Naga Seshayya v. State of A.P., 2020 SCC OnLine AP 509 , decided on 20-07-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Uttaranchal High Court: Addressing the present petition highlighting the apprehensions that are being raised upon the functioning of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and Verifiable Paper Audit Trial (VVPAT) Machines, especially in the light of the recently concluded Legislative Assembly Elections in five States, the Division Bench of Rajiv Sharma and Sharad Kumar Sharma, JJ., observed that, Article 324 of the Constitution has a wide ambit and gives the Election Commission powers to cope up with any unprovided scenarios vis-à-vis smooth conduction of elections. Thus the Election Commission can use its residuary power under Article 324 to fill the vacuum and to “meet unforeseen contingencies”. However the Court noted that off late various political parties have started a systematic campaign to tarnish the image of the Commission by casting doubts upon the EVMs. To this, the Court held that, it cannot allow the national parties to tarnish the image of a Constitutional body such as the Election Commission and that freedom of speech and expression doesn’t permit to level unsubstantiated charges against the constitutional bodies.

The petitioner, a politician had expressed certain reservations regarding the use of EVMs. Counsel for the petitioner Arvind Vashisth contended that the role of Election Commission gets over the moment election results are declared, therefore the proposed “EVM Hackathon” on 03.06.2017 as it has been notified in the Commission’s press release dated 20.05.2017, will affect the outcome of the pending election petitions in this Court and other High Courts. The respondent argued that the EVM is not hackable and it cannot be physically tampered during transportation or at its manufacturing stage and the proposed ‘hackathon’ has been undertaken by the Commission to allay the apprehensions of the political parties.

The Court held that broad meaning should be given to Article 324 and the Court also must “promote”, “nurture” and “maintain” independence of constitutional bodies and protect them from criticism. It further stated that use of EVM has been ordered by the Commission while exercising the power under Article 324. The Court lastly held that the faith of people must be safeguarded on fair and free election which is a basic feature of the Constitution, therefore in public interest the Court restrained all political parties, NGO’s and individuals from criticizing the use of EVM, till any decision is reached over the pending election petitions and the decision to hold the ‘hackathon’ challenge was left on the discretion of Election Commission with a caveat that the results of the challenge does not in any way affect the decision in the pending petitions. [Ramesh Pandey v. Election Commission of India, 2017 SCC OnLine Utt 676, decided on 02.06.2017]