Exclusive: SC issues contempt notice to ECI

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SC issues contempt notice to ECI
Supreme Court of India

New Delhi : Supreme court Hearing a contempt petition filed by Backward and Minority Communities Employees’ Federation (BAMCEF) through its national president Waman Meshram against the Election Commission of India (ECI) , bench consisting of justice Ranjan Gogai and PC Pant issued a notice to the ECI as to why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against it for its failure to use Electronic Voting Machines with Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail in "true spirit" according to the directions of top court in October 2013.

The contempt petition was filed for not implementing Voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) machines along with the Electronic voting machine (EVM) according to the judgment passed by Supreme Court on 8th October 2013.

Telling the court that the Election Commission "did not bother to implement the judgment by not introducing the VVPAT system in the recently held assembly elections in its true spirit", the petition says the "ECI is playing mockery with the largest democracy". Referring to an RTI reply filed along with the petition, BAMCEF said that the ECI did not even bother to place order for new VVPAT machines.

In the judgment dated 8-Oct-2013, who's petitioner was Dr. Subramanian Swamy, the apex court said that "We are satisfied that the 'paper trail' is an indispensable requirement of free and fair elections. The confidence of the voters in the EVMs can be achieved only with the introduction of the paper trail. EVMs with VVPAT system ensure the accuracy of the voting system,"

Noting that in general election (2014) all over the country, the Election Commission had to handle one million polling booths, the court by its 2013 judgment permitted the EC to introduce the EVMs with VVPAT in gradual stages or geographical-wise in the ensuing general elections. Citing this observation, BAMCEF said in its petition that the ECI is compelled to use VVPAT in 100% booths after the 2014 general elections and the ECI is repeatedly using the already available VVPAT's again and again to call it a phase. 

Waman Meshram in a phone call with Critic Brain have said "ECI is cheating country at large. Even where they have used few hundreds as an eye wash, they have changed the rules or recounting which are in conflict with the Supreme Court's orders and also against the spirit of 'Fair and Transpirant' elections".

The petition copy which Critic Brain had access to reads "That the petitioner Dr. Subramanian Swami in the said petition claimed himself to be public spirited social and political activist. However, after the judgment was passed and he being a political patronage of the present ruling party was duty bound to follow up the process of implementation of the direction of the hon’ble Supreme Court of India passed in the Civil Appeal no. 9093/2013 but instead kept silent without showing any interest for the public purpose, reason best known to him." 

Notably, one of the judge heard Friday's contempt petiton was also part of the earlier judgment along with the then Chief Justice P.Sathasivam.

Senior Advocate’s Prashant bhushan along with advocate Ambika ray have appeared on behalf of petitioner Backward and Minority Communities Employees’ Federation (BAMCEF). Prashant Bhushan said “the bench has issued a contempt notice”. "Let the Election commission of India (ECI) file its reply. Hopefully they will file with honesty." He added.

Supreme Court Advocate Ambika Ray said the "Election Commission of India (ECI) has gone beyond its limits not to safeguard the transparency but to play mockery with largest democracy in the world as it is mentioned in the petition copy. Now that the matter is subjudiced we are hoping complete justice is done in this matter at a larger Public Interest.