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HC’s blanket ban against criticism of EVMs stayed

The Supreme Court on Friday stayed an Uttarakhand High Court order issuing a blanket ban on political parties, non-governmental organisations and citizens from criticising electronic voting machines (EVMs) used in elections to five State Assemblies this year.

The ban, issued by the High Court on June 2, included airing remarks, suspicions and criticism on “electronic media, Press, radio, Facebook, Twitter, etc” about EVM-tampering in the elections.

A Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra passed the stay order on a petition by Nainital resident Ramesh Pandey, represented by advocate Devadutt Kamat.

“Criticism which help us secure the most basic requirement of a vibrant democracy, that is, ensuring votes are not tampered, is absolutely necessary. Courts ought not to create restrictions on such criticism,” the petition argued against the blanket ban. The petition also challenged the validity of the Election Commission's first-of-its-kind 'EVM Challenge' organised on June 3.

This open challenge was organised to counter allegations by several political parties about “defunct” EVMs used in the Assembly elections.

The petition contended that the EVM Challenge violated both the Constitution and the Representation of People Act, 1951.

It pointed out that high courts and not the Election Commission are vested with the powers to deal with election disputes, including allegations of EVM-tampering.

The 1951 Act was amended in 1966 to include Section 80A, which took away the EC's power to set up election tribunals.

Besides, the petition contended that the open challenge was held despite an order from the Uttarakhand High Court, on the basis of seven election petitions, to seal the EVMs.

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Printable version | Oct 29, 2020 10:10:06 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/hcs-blanket-ban-against-criticism-of-evms-stayed/article19605073.ece

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