A petition has been filed before the Supreme Court to expand access of citizens to electoral process by enhancing exiting postal ballot voting to more categories of citizens and introducing e-voting (K Sathyan v. Union of India).
The petition has also sought directions to ensure fairer election process by providing double databases for transactions namely, central database and a local database to reduce chances of manipulation of data and Electronic Voting Machines (EVM).
The petition filed by social activist K Sathyan has further prayed that an OTP based system for fault free identification of voters be evolved and also sought installation of CCTVs in all polling booths across the country.
“Several sections of voters including internal migrant labourers, employees, students and business professionals stationed outside the constituency as well as Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) and overseas migrant labourers on account of their profession, occupation, education, trade, business, marriage etc have been alienated from the electoral process for very long,” the petition states.
Depriving them of their right to vote is in violation of the Constitutional obligation of the State to protect the praxis of free and fair elections, the petitioner has contended.
Currently, voting through postal ballot can be availed only by a few categories of persons. The same should be expanded to include all registered voters who are unable to come back to their constituency including internal migrant labourers, businesspersons, students, NRIs and their spouses, the petitioner has prayed.
The petition has been drawn by advocates Aruna A, Thulasi K Raj, Maitreyi S Hegde, Minu Vittorria Paulson, Tellmy Jolly and Uttara PV and settled by advocate Kaleeswaram Raj. It has been filed through advocate Nishe Rajan Shonker.
The petition raises two broad issues – expansion of access of citizens to voting and ensuring fairer electoral process by technological and other means.
Expanding Electoral Process
On this aspect, the petition has sought expansion of postal ballot to various other categories of citizens who are outside their constituency including internal migrant labourers, employees, students, and business professionals stationed outside the constituency as well as Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) and overseas migrant labourers.
Towards this end, the petition has objected to certain statutory prescriptions under the Representation of People Act.
First, it has sought an expansion of the scope of the term “certain other classes” occurring in Section 60 of the Representation of People Act to includes persons stationed outside their constituency.
Second, it has also sought reading down of the provision “not in any other manner” other than postal ballot under Section 60 (c) of the RP Act so that other modes of voting can be explored.
To effectively secure this right, the petitioner has suggested introduction of e-voting.
“This allows the voter to vote from anywhere in the world as long as there is access to an internet-connected computer. There is a designated pre-voting period where the voter can log into the national election system after authentication using national id or mobile id. Once authentication is done, the voter can choose among the candidates displayed. After the vote is cast, it is encrypted by the system and digitally signed by the voter. The identity of the voter is concealed by removing the personal digital signature from the e-ballot before it reaches the National Electoral Commission for counting. This way, the anonymity of the voter is protected,” the petition states.
Estonia used this system in 2007 to hold its Parliamentary elections, the petition points out.
Towards this end, the petitioner has made three suggestions.
The first is to combat EVM data manipulation and hacking. For this, the petitioner has proposed more than one database to record the transactions of the EVM.
One will be a central data bases which can store the entire data and the second local database.
“This will mean that if any person attempts to manipulate the votes by tampering with the data generated by EVMs, they will have to manipulate both databases. This will make it difficult for person attempting to tamper with the EVMs,” the petition contends.
The second is to evolve a One Time Password system for fault free identification of voters.
This, the petition states is to prevent impersonification. This will involve a voter receiving an OTP on his registered mobile number when he/ she reaches the polling booth.
“Only after verification of OTP, the person must be allowed to cast their vote,” the petitioner has submitted.
This ensure that if people care carrying fake identity card, they can be weeded out, the petition adds.
The third suggestion towards making electoral process smoother is to install CCTV in polling booths so as to ensure than no person casts vote through unfair means.