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EC moves SC for fixing timeline for filing election pleas, release of EVMs, VVPATs used in 6 states

The Commission sought that a timeline be fixed for filing election petitions relating to assembly polls of Assam, Kerala, Delhi, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal

EC moves SC for fixing timeline for filing election pleas, release of EVMs, VVPATs used in 6 states
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VVPAT at an election booth

Chennai

The Election Commission on Wednesday sought an urgent hearingin the Supreme Court on its plea alleging that EVMs and VVPAT machines used inthe assembly polls of six states are lying unused as they are preserved due toan order extending the limitation period for filing pleas, including electionpetitions, during the second wave of COVID-19.

A bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana agreed to hear next week the EC'splea after senior advocate Vikas Singh submitted a large number of Electronic VotingMachines (EVMs) and Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail machines (VVPATs) arestill being preserved and need to be released.

He sought that a timeline be fixed for filing election petitions relating toassembly polls of Assam, Kerala, Delhi, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.

We have to maintain these EVMs and VVPAT machines and hearing is necessary aselections in states like Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Punjab are coming up,the senior lawyer said, adding that these machines would be needed for upcomingpolls.

Alright, we will fix it next week, said the bench which also comprised justicesSurya Kant and A S Bopanna. Taking note of the onset of the second COVID wave,the CJI-led bench, on April 27, 2021, had relaxed the statutory period for filingpetitions, including the election petitions, under the Representation of thePeople Act, 1951.

Consequently, anybody can still file a plea challenging the election of areturned candidate and as per procedure, the poll panel is required to preserveEVMs and VVPAT machines, having evidentiary value, to put forth its views injudicial proceedings.

Resultantly, all the EVMs and VVPATs belonging to the Election Commission ofIndia that were used in recently held Assembly Elections are blocked and cannotbe used in future/upcoming elections, the plea said.

The poll panel is seeking appropriate directions from this court fixing atimeline for filing of Election Petitions in the States/Union Territories ofAssam, Kerala, NCT of Delhi, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, as inabsence of the same, all EVMs used in these States/Union Territories arecurrently stuck or unable to be used/deployed for upcoming/future elections dueto the Order dated 27.04.2021 passed by this court..., it said.

As a result of the apex court's order, the EC is unable to use a substantialnumber of EVMs. The same is a cause for concern for the Election Commission asit is scheduled to conduct assembly elections in a few states next year. Inthis context it is pertinent to note that the term of Legislative Assemblies ofGoa, Manipur, Uttarakhand, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh are coming to an end in2022, it said.

The panel gave the numbers of EVMs and VVPAT machines used in these assemblypolls in six states. It would be in the interests of justice that the plea of EC is allowed byfixing of the timeline for filing of the election petitions so that the EVMsand VVPAT machines in recent polls may be released on the basis of the statusof filing of Election Petitions by that due date.

It is trite to mention that the Election Commission releases for reuse onlythose EVMs which have been used in constituencies in respect of which noElection Petition/Writ Petition has been filed raising any EVM related issue,it said.

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