Missing voters: Can the Election Commissioner get away with just a sorry?

Evidence is required to prove why did the Election Commissioner apologise and for what? Instead of a mere sorry, MS Brahma should put up details on the website and ask the Collector of Pune to take up suo motu revision

It’s shocking that Election Commissioner HS Brahma has merely admitted to “lapse on its part” and issues an oral public apology. A report in DNA dated 26th April, quotes him as saying, “I must apologise and regret that the names of such a large number of voters have not been found in the list. It’s a very, very massive operational mistake which should not happened.”

Surely, such a huge 'mistake' demands more than an apology, which incidentally happened only after the Mumbai furore (he didn’t bother about the fact that 4.23 lakh odd names of voters (about 24%) from Pune Lok Sabha constituency alone had been deleted a week before Mumbai went to polls) and that too, after a hue and cry, by people and media. What about action in terms of providing public explanation of what exactly was the nature of the mess? Or providing opportunity to voters, who for no fault of theirs were deprived from voting, since this was an unprecedented colossal administrative or any other lapse?

Now, the issue is being pushed under the carpet, with former chief election commissioners like Navin Chawla patting the back of Mr Brahma for saying sorry in public, through television debates. And now, the onus is being put on the citizens whose names have been deleted, to come forward and lodge an official complaint regarding their missing names at the relevant election office or go to court or do andolans. Surely, every voter whose name has been deleted or omitted MUST take up the responsibility and fight for the injustice meted out to him or her.

Besides lodging a complaint, citizens must use Section 6 and Section 4 of the Right to Information (RTI) Act to procure documents, to know the procedure that led to the deletion of their names. Understandably, many citizens would feel irritated that instead of the Election Commission and the district election authorities immediately embarking upon the necessary corrective, the citizens are being made to work again towards restoring their name in the list. However, since our democracy is so slothful, it is our voices, in large numbers, that will bring it back to vibrancy. Otherwise, bureaucrats and politicians are waiting for public memory to fade, which does quickly. (Please find here a link which will give you samples of the complaint form, application form of Section 6 as well as Section 4 of the RTI Act: )

However, the government too MUST suo motu ensure action from its side. Former divisional Commissioner Prabhakar Karandikar points fingers towards the Election Registration Officers stating that, “When names of the voters, who have been voting for the last few occasions [and living at the same address], go missing or when names of some members of a family remain intact but names of other members [living at the same address] get deleted, the Electoral Registration Officers are clearly at fault.’’

Karandikar has a recommendation for adding back the names without involving every voter whose name was deleted. He states, “the Collectors, media and the political parties have received such complaints in large number. It would be adding insult to injury to ask the complainants to file fresh applications in Form 6 for inclusion of their names. It is equally unfair to ask the aggrieved voters to file appeals under Registration of Electors Rules 1960 against the deletion orders passed by the EROs.’’

Karandikar suggests that the Collector, who is a District Election Officer, should take up ERO’s orders for suo motu Revision. “This will at least show the electoral machinery’s sensitivity to the plight of innocent voters. The social activists, media and the political parties, who have raised their voices against the bungling in preparation of Electoral Rolls, should insist that the District Collectors behave proactively and use their discretionary powers in order to deliver justice,” he says.

In the meanwhile, citizens must fight for justice, just as Sandhya Gokhale and Amol Palekar are pursuing in an admirably scientific and legal fashion. Only, they want to do it without making noise. Good enough.

(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)

Yogesh Jain
8 years ago
This letter should be posted to Chief Justice Supreme Court of India, Chief Election Commissioner Office, President of India, Speaker of Lok Sabha, Speaker of Rajya Sabha, Chief Minister Maharashtra, Governor Maharashtra, Chief Justice of High Court - Maharashtra - duly registered letter.
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