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Why did Supreme Court abolish first EVM-based election in India? What was SC's reasoning | READ

What were the reasons behind the Supreme Court invalidating India's first EVM-based election? Read to know the court's perspective on this matter.

Edited By: Arushi Jaiswal @JaiswalArushi New Delhi Updated on: May 30, 2024 11:15 IST
Lok Sabha Elections, EVM, Supreme Court
Image Source : FILE PHOTO Supreme Court junked the Election Commission's first EVM experiment

First EVM-based election in India: As the Lok Sabha elections in India near their conclusion, opposition parties continue to voice concerns about the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). This contentious issue dates back to the introduction of EVMs in the Indian electoral process. The initial deployment of EVMs faced controversy, leading the Supreme Court to invalidate the first election conducted with these machines. This controversy emerged from the introduction of EVMs in the Parur Assembly constituency of Kerala in 1982. Allegations of irregularities and doubts about the electoral process's integrity prompted the Supreme Court to intervene, ordering a repoll in 50 of the 84 polling stations. 

How did controversy erupt? 

In the Paravur assembly constituency of Kerala, EVMs were used at 50 out of 84 polling stations during the election. There were six candidates in the fray, with the primary contest between AC Jose of the Congress and N Sivan Pillai of the Communist Party of India (CPI). The election results were announced on May 20, 1982. Pillai secured 30,450 votes, with 11,268 cast manually and 19,182 cast using machines. Jose secured 30,327 votes. With the victory margin standing at a slim 123 votes, Jose filed a petition in the Kerala High Court, raising concerns regarding the usage of EVMs.

However, the High Court upheld the ECI's decision to use EVMs and refused to interfere with the results. But when the matter went to the Supreme Court, a three-judge bench of Justices Syed Murtaza Fazal Ali, A Varadarajan and Ranganath Mishra declared the use of EVMs unauthorised and ordered re-polling in the 50 polling stations through ballot paper.

Why did Supreme Court abolised election?

The Supreme Court did so because at that time there was no provision under the Representation of the People Act, 1951 giving the Election Commission the right to use EVMs. Further, the Center had also refused to approve the use of machines to cast votes. However, the Election Commission gone ahead and published a notification in the Kerala Gazette for the use of machines which was issued in the purported exercise of the powers conferred on the Commission under Article 324 of the Constitution.

‘ECI cannot take up legislative activity’

Appearing on behalf of the winning candidate Pillai, lawyer Ram Jethmalani had argued in the court that Article 324 of the Constitution gives full authority to the Election Commission in matters of conducting elections to Parliament and State Assemblies. The powers given to the ECI by the Constitution will prevail over any Act passed by Parliament or statutory rules made under it. However, the Supreme Court had said that it is not possible to read Article 324 so broadly and unconventionally.  

The court had said that in the guise of passing orders to conduct elections, the ECI cannot undertake legislative activities. This task is reserved solely for the Parliament and state legislatures. It cannot be said that the ECI is a third chamber in the legislative process under the Constitution. The court had said that the Election Commission cannot have full power to make laws as per its own wish.

While giving its verdict, the Supreme Court bench had said that if we accept the argument of the respondent side, it will turn the Election Commission into a complete despot in the field of elections. The guidelines regarding the manner and method of elections will be set aside. The Supreme Court had also said that if the commission is armed with such powers and if the person running the commission is linked to a particular ideology, then he can bring political havoc or bring about a constitutional crisis, setting at nought the integrity and independence of the electoral process, so important and indispensable to the democratic system.

How did elections start with EVMs?

In a verdict on March 5, 1984, the Supreme Court declined to approve the use of EVMs in the 1982 elections. The court also noted that the central government had maintained a neutral position by neither endorsing nor opposing the Election Commission's directive. However, the court refrained from expressing any opinion on the merits or drawbacks of EVMs in its ruling and deferred the decision to grant legal authorisation for the voting machines to the legislature. Subsequently, in accordance with this judgment, the government amended the 1951 Act to permit the use of EVMs.

Also Read: ECI refutes TMC's allegations of EVM tampering in West Bengal polls

Also Read: Andhra High Court asks police not to take action against YSRCP MLA in EVM vandalism case till June 5


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