ECI likely to modify penal provision for false claims

In the future, you may be able to raise the issue of the malfunctioning of electronic voting machines (EVM)  and voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT)  machines or their mismatch without the fear of being arrested.

The Election Commission of India (ECI) is contemplating revisiting a rule that provides for the prosecution of an elector if a complaint of EVM and VVPAT machine malfunction turns out to be false, chief election commissioner Sunil Arora said.

“Now that the current elections are over, we will probably be discussing it internally whether it should be modified, softened etc … We may revisit it,” Arora said while responding to a question on the penal provision, which many feel is unwarranted.

As of now, a voter who claims that the EVM or the paper trail machine did not record his or her vote correctly is allowed to cast a test vote under Rule 49 MA of the Conduct of Election Rules.

But, if the voter fails to prove the mismatch, poll officials can initiate action against the complainant under section 177 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which deals with giving false submissions.

The IPC section states that the person “shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both.”

According to ECI officials, it takes 20 to 30 minutes to go through and settle complaints about VVPAT machines showing incorrect result.

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