People can dial 1950 to register election-related complaints

The Election Commission (EC) will retain its toll-free helpline for people to register poll-related complaints in the Assembly elections in Karnataka, S.K. Mendiratta, Legal Adviser to the commission, said here on Saturday.

Announcing this at a seminar on ‘Electoral reforms’ organised by the Foundation for Advanced Management of Elections (FAME), he said people could dial 1950 not only to register any election-related complaint but also enquire about enrolment in the voters’ list, or even including or deleting names from the list.

“This helpline had been put to good use during the Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat elections and it will be used in the coming elections too. There has been a good response from people; we received several complaints that have been followed up with the authorities,” he said.

All calls would be recorded, and the callers’ telephone or mobile number would be registered for acknowledgement and they would be informed about the action taken, he said.

Electoral reforms

Pointing out that the Election Commission’s demand for electoral reforms had been pending, Mr. Mendiratta said: “We have been asking for making any proven case about movement of cash during elections a cognizable offence, but it remains a non-cognizable offence.”

Vice-chairman of FAME N. Gopalaswami, a former Chief Election Commissioner, called upon non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to come under a common platform and keep a watch on electoral malpractices.

Citing an initiative by a group of NGOs in Tamil Nadu, Mr. Gopalaswami said: “If NGOs bring to our notice any electoral malpractices, we can follow it up with the authorities. They can also inform us about false expenditure details submitted by candidates or even non-submission (within the prescribed 30 days). If the complaints turn out to be true, the candidates can even be disqualified.”

Earlier, T.S. Krishnamurthy, former Chief Election Commissioner, said political consensus for bringing in electoral reforms was only an excuse. “If government is really concerned, it can bring in reforms even with a simple majority,” he said.

The former Chief Justice of India M.N. Venkatachaliah said people had lost faith in governments. “This means that we are heading towards an anarchy-like situation. The existing process of administration is destroying our constitutional values,” he said.

The seminar included panel discussions on ‘Is India in need of a different electoral system?’ and “Ways and means to curb money power in elections with specific reference to forthcoming elections in Karnataka.’

The former Karnataka Governor V.S. Rama Devi and Director of Rural Education for Development Society Jyothi Raj spoke.