Rule 49MA of the Conduct of Election Rules
- The Election Commission (EC) of India may revisit a rule that provides for prosecution of an elector if a complaint regarding malfunctioning of the EVM or VVPAT machine turns out to be false.
- Under Rule 49MA of the Conduct of Election Rules, a voter who claims that the EVM or the paper trail machine did not record his or her vote correctly is allowed to cast a test vote.
- If the voter fails to prove the mismatch, poll officials can initiate action against the complainant under Section 177 of the Indian Penal Code, which deals with giving false submission.
- A person can be punished with a jail term up to six months, or fine to the tune of Rs 1,000 or both.
- The EC has all along maintained that if there is no penal provision, there may be a flood of false claims.
- However, this provision should be used as an exception and very rarely.
- The intention of the provision was to discourage those who want to disrupt the electoral process by making such complaints.
- Earlier in April, 2019 a Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had sought the poll panel’s response on a plea seeking setting aside of Rule 49MA.
- The plea alleged that the provision was unconstitutional as it criminalized reporting of malfunctioning of EVMs and VVPAT machines.
- Putting the onus on the elector in case of arbitrary deviant behavior of machines infringed upon a citizen’s right to freedom of expression, i.e. Article 19(1)(a).