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HC points to voters’ role in updating electoral list

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The Bombay High Court has raised questions over the responsibility of electorate to ensure their names are on the voters’ list instead of putting all the blame on authorities.

In an order earlier this week on a bunch of petitions complaining against deletion of the names in the voters’ list during the recent Lok Sabha elections, the court noted that petitioners have emphasised upon the magnitude of deletions and contended that it was indicative of negligence on the part of electoral authorities.

“However, there is no adequate explanation forthcoming from the petitioners, who at least personally, are neither poor nor illiterate, as to the steps adopted by them to verify that their names continue on the electoral rolls or for inclusion of their names in the electoral rolls, no sooner draft or final electoral rolls came to be published,” a division bench of justices A S Oka and M S Sonak observed in their order.

The order was given on a bunch of petitions filed by several voters, including actor and director Amol Palekar, from Mumbai and Pune complaining that their names were missing from the electoral rolls when they went to cast their votes in Lok Sabha elections.
The court also declined to stay the declaration of results of elections and restoration of names of the deleted voters in the electoral rolls of Mumbai and Pune constituencies, saying there was no explanation from the electorates as to what steps they had taken to verify their names in the lists.

The bench also refused to give direction for holding “supplemental polls” in the two constituencies, whose results are scheduled to be declared.
“In the aforesaid circumstances, we are of the opinion that no case has been made out by the petitioners for grant of interim reliefs in the context of Lok Sabha Elections 2014.
“Accordingly, prayers for interim reliefs in the context of Lok Sabha Elections 2014 are hereby declined,” the bench said.

The petitioners, who sought the right to cast their vote, had complained about the “deletion of over half a million voters” from the electoral rolls for the Pune and Mumbai Parliamentary constituencies in the Lok Sabha elections.

The bench noted that the complaint was made at a stage when polling had already concluded and only results remained to be declared.

The court also rejected the pleas challenging the validity of Article 329 (Bar to interference by courts in electoral matters) of the Constitution and certain provisions of the Representation of People Act.

The bench said Amol Palekar had addressed representations as late as on April 19, 2014 and April 24, 2014, while the draft election rolls were published on September 16, 2013 and final rolls on January 31, 2014.

“Incidentally, the Advocate General has pointed out that name of Amol Palekar continues in the 165- Andheri West (Mumbai) Constituency in Part No. 48 Serial No.704, even though the complaint of Amol Palekar concerns deletion of his name from the electoral rolls for Pune Constituency,” it said.

The bench said that the petitioners have pointed out that owing to the negligence on the part of electoral officers, the very democratic polity is at stake, however, as in case of liberty, “even the price of democracy is the eternal vigilance of its citizenry”.

Citing Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar’s address to the Constituent Assembly, who was extensively quoted by the petitioners, the court said in his masterpiece, he had also urged Indians to be vigilant.
“Dr. Ambedkar urges the Indian people to be vigilant and not tardy in shouldering the great responsibilities which beckon. Dr. Ambedkar gently warns the Indian peoples to recognise the evils that lie across our path and which induce people to prefer ‘government for the people to government by the people’.” the judgement said, citing Dr. Ambedkar.

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