The Supreme Court on Monday issued a notice to the Election Commission on a plea challenging the legal provision mandating six months jail for questioning Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).
On a petition filed by Sunil Ahya, an SC bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi heard the arguments and issued the notice to the Election Commission.
According to Section 49 MA of the Code of Election Rules, if a person files a complaint regarding discrepancy in the EVM, and if after investigation it is found to be false or incorrect, then the complainant can be prosecuted under Section 177 of the Indian Penal Code for “furnishing false information”. This section invites “six months in jail or a fine of Rs 1,000 or both”.
Ahya contended that such a provision in election rules will act as a deterrent for voters experiencing faults in the EVMs from lodging a formal complaint.
Claiming that the provision was not fair and that it will discourage voters with genuine complaints from coming forward, the petitioner said, “This infringes upon a citizen’s right to freedom of expression, which is a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India,” said the petition.
“Deviant behaviour of the electronic machine should not go against the electorate and lodging a complaint is an essential ingredient in a continuous exercise for improving the electoral process,” Ahya said.
The petitioner also included some suggestions to improve the overall electoral exercise. He said, “One of the possible ways to address the issue of reporting the aforesaid discrepancy in the future would be to keep the ballot unit lamp against the blue button of EVM glowing and at the same time, to let the VVPAT printed slip remain hanging in the transparent window without it being automatically cut after 7 seconds, unless and until the voter is completely satisfied and comes out of the polling booth.” (IANS)
In a democratic dispensation the first duties of the elected political executive governing the nation are to bring about development of all and ensure protection of citizens from internal and external threats. The political leadership exercises the sovereign power to this end through the bureaucratic machinery — that includes the police — headed by the officers of All India and Central Services who were recruited, trained and placed in various wings of the government to implement the policies flowing from the top. Years ago a policy decision of great administrative value was taken by the Centre to put the newly inducted officers of all these services together for a short ‘Foundation Course’ at what is now the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA) at Mussoorie, before they dispersed to join the establishments of their respective services at other places for a full length specialised training.
The foundation course had the merit of letting all probationers know each other and putting them on a common grid of understanding of the great cause of national governance that they were going to share in their long years of public service ahead. It would lay the turf for an assured cooperation among them whenever they would have an occasion to work together in future to carry the mission of governance forward. It all began in 1960 the year of my joining the IPS and I could see the benefit of that participation in my own experience. A long time later when I became the Director Intelligence Bureau, I interacted with the Secretaries at the Centre and the Chief Secretaries in the states whom I had known at Mussoorie — which made the sharing of thoughts with them on matters of national importance so easy. What worked was an understanding that we were all together in serving a higher cause.
Today India is grappling with the challenge of pursuing economic growth of a nation of 1.3 billion people spread across far corners of the vast country and placed in uneven conditions of development. The officers of the Civil Services on whom falls the responsibility of implementing the development policies of the Centre are finding it easier to coordinate the efforts that cut across various ministries and institutions — somewhere because there are no psychological barriers amongst them. In the domain of development they had enough shared experience to put their heads together in a meaningful way. They had knowledge of various facets of what constitutes development — financial, agriculture, infrastructure, forestry, public health and so on. The recall of the foundation course definitely helped in all of this.
While the orientation of Civil Services to the tasks of development is adequate the national scene points to the need for an awareness programme for all Civil Services — as they advanced in their career — on the share of responsibility that would fall on them directly or indirectly, in the sphere of securing the nation and the citizens at large against threats both internal and external. Security for all is also the concern for all and should not be deemed to be something relegated completely to the care of a national security set up and the specialised agencies besides the Police. Warren Christopher, the then US Secretary of State, famously said in 1993 that ‘national security was inseparable from economic security’ and today it is known that the targets of a ‘proxy war’ include economic assets and the industrial life-line — since damaging these weakened the opponent far more effectively than an open war would do. Those handling governance at decision making levels have to have an understanding of the economic dimensions of national security.
For all of this it becomes a requirement of the time that senior officials across the spectrum of governance — who are adept at handling development — should also be fully informed of the national security imperatives that the governance had to reckon with. A little exposure to what was the state of affairs on the national security front and the developments of strategic import happening in the world outside, in an early stage of their training might prove quite rewarding for them. In the age of knowledge that is upon us ignorance is not a bliss and an awareness of the environ in which the national government was responding to the call of both development and security would be a great asset. A short module of discussion on matters related to national security in the Foundation Course for All India and Central Services would go a long way in providing a minimal basic orientation on the subject that would remain with the senior officers for the future and contribute to a sound decision making by them in later years.
Subjects that would qualify for being included in the presentations by professionals and strategic analysts include National Security Scenario & Policy Responses, Terrorism & Maoism, Disaster Management, Dimensions of Drug Traffic and India’s National Security Set Up & Intelligence Agencies. Every functionary of the government — and even the citizens at large — ought to be aware of their responsibility towards safeguarding national security. We are in an era of covert offensives, an open external attack of the enemy is not the only threat to the nation. Our defence forces are always in a state of readiness to deal with an open warfare. In the Indian context the reality of a proxy war being conducted by a hostile neighbour underscores the importance of our counter-intelligence capabilities that security is all about. Both defence and security have to work together to produce a perfect response. Kashmir has been a testing ground for the success of Intelligence based operations of army and para military forces — the challenge being of neutralising the infiltrated terrorist without collateral damage. Those who man the senior positions in the civil side of the government can benefit from an early exposure to an orientation programme on the lines suggested above. (IANS)