EC orders re-scrutiny of rejected online voter applications in Mahadevapura

Whitefield Rising has been fighting ‘en masse’ rejection of online applications

Updated - March 22, 2018 03:10 pm IST

Published - March 21, 2018 10:55 pm IST

Taking note of the Mahadevapura Assembly constituency recording an unusually high 66% rejection rate of all online voter registration applications, Sanjiv Kumar, Chief Election Officer, Karnataka, has ordered that every case be scrutinised again. Residents of Whitefield, who have been fighting to exercise their franchise for several years, say they feel vindicated by this decision.

After conducting a surprise audit at the AERO office at Ramagondanahalli on Tuesday, Mr. Kumar found many irregularities and ordered that every individual online application that had been rejected over the last five years be examined. Of the 13,395 online applications made from 2012 to January 2018, 8,867 applications were rejected. Comparatively, only 12% of manual applications have been rejected.

Most of the applications had been made as part of the Million Voters Rising campaign, which aims to help citizens get their names on the electoral rolls. It has been an uphill task for residents of the IT corridor to get their names on the rolls for many years. They had started a campaign to register and vote in 2014, but hit a wall as local civic officials were rejecting their voter registration applications.

In a constituency that had a victory margin of 6,149 votes in the 2013 Assembly elections, the franchise of 8867 voters is a critical factor. The Hindu had published a three-part series on the issue in September 2017.

‘Burden of proof lies with the ERO/AERO’

Chief Election Officer, Karnataka, Sanjeev Kumar, who has asked the civic body to re-scrutinise online applications of residents of Mahadevapura which had been rejected, said that ‘the burden of proof, verification lies with the ERO/AERO and not the applicant’.

Civic officials will now have to visit the residences with hard copies of the applications for verification.

It was also found that civic officials had not issued Form 12 following rejection, as per ECI norms. Following the reverification process, Form 12 will be issued with reason for rejection.

After failing to get on the rolls for several years, residents of Whitefield felt that it was a conspiracy against them. However, Mr. Kumar rejected any ulterior motive and attributed the rejections to a ‘a lack of understanding of the procedure’. He said that contrary to norms, officials had rejected applications in batches on the grounds that hard copies had not been submitted. “Each application should be treated separately,” he said.

The Hindu had earlier reported how civic officials had refused to acknowledge hard copies of the applications despite applicants submitting them. The software was not updated to show ‘hard copy received’, and they were rejected. “Facing issues with the website of CEO, Karnataka, we had asked residents to apply through the National Voters Services Portal (NSVP), where hard copy of the application cannot be printed. But BBMP officials demanded that hard copy be submitted and rejected most of our applications,” said Anjali Saini, a volunteer with Whitefield Rising.

Citizens who will be able get onto the voters list during this re-verification process will be eligible to vote in the Assembly elections. “The final voter list we published on February 28 is the conclusion of the annual summary revision. But updation of voter list is an ongoing process and can be updated till the polls,” Mr. Kumar said.

Anjali Saini said that this was the best chance for Whitefield residents who wished to exercise their franchise but were unable to do so.

Nitya Ramakrishnan of Whitefield Rising added, “It is common in Whitefield for people to say they have applied thrice, four times but could never make it. Now they know the reason. It's a critical moment where we need to doggedly pursue authorities and ensure proper procedure is followed in re-scrutiny of these 8,867 online applications."

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