Saturday, June 15, 2024

Supreme Court Upholds ECI’s Stand On Form 17C

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On 24th May 2024, the Supreme Court took a stance to prevent ‘ched-chad’ with the ongoing elections. The court adjourned the case on the plea requesting online upload of Form 17C by ECI. The decision to hold judgment during the election cycle was fair and helped maintain the integrity of the electoral process. The points made by ECI for refusing to digitally disclose booth-wise voter turnout data under Form 17C highlight legitimate concerns on the possibility of rampant digital fraud! Let’s discuss it! 

What is Form 17C?

 

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NDTV Explains: Form 17C And Row Over Poll Panel's Voter Turnout Data
PC NDTV : Form 17C Part I

ECI officials generated a document named Form 17C. Usually, the copy of Form 17 Part-I is made available to every polling agent after the completion of the polling at the booth. This Form 17C captures crucial details from every polling station. It provides the following details”

NDTV Explains: Form 17C And Row Over Poll Panel's Voter Turnout Data
PC NDTV:  Form 17C Part II
  1. EVM identification numbers
  2. Total number of electors
  3. Actual number of voters
  4. Number of voters who abstained from voting after registering
  5. Number of those denied voting
  6. Total votes per EVM.
  7. Part II of Form 17C gives the total votes per candidate after counting.

What Was Plea Filed With The Supreme Court?

23% MLA aspirants have criminal cases: ADR | 23% MLA aspirants have  criminal cases: ADR
PC Deccan Chronicles

NGO Association for Democratic Reforms, aka ADR, filed a plea with the Supreme Court. The plea sought the uploading of Form 17C data and booth-wise voter turnout information on the ECI’s website.

The NGO’s demand was backed by a 2019 writ petition by TMC leader Mahua Moitra.

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Yes, the same cash for queries dismissed MP who gets her energy from EGGS! The writ petition by TMC’s Mahua alleged discrepancies in voter turnout data. However, none was ever found!

The ADR asked the Supreme Court to direct the ECI to upload scanned copies of Form 17C Part-I on its website which includes the account of votes recorded after each polling phase. Additionally, it also sought the disclosure of Part II of Form 17C. This part contains the candidate-wise results after vote counting. Finally, ADR alleged that the ECI was derelict in its duty to provide accurate and indisputable election results via EVMs.

What Was The Stance Of the Supreme Court?

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A vacation bench comprising Justices Dipankar Datta and Satish Chandra Sharma adjourned any decision on the plea. The Supreme Court emphasized the need for a “hands-off approach” concerning the election process during an ongoing election cycle. Hence, the bench rightly pointed out that any instruction could potentially interrupt and undermine the electoral system.

Justice Datta remarked, “In between elections, a hands-off approach has to be taken. Let the application be heard along with the main writ petition. We cannot interrupt the process. Let us have some trust in the authority.”

Thus, the Supreme Court’s ruling reinforces the notion that the election process must be free from unnecessary disruptions. With 7 stages of polling to include 90 crore eligible voters, ECI’s independence is paramount for the smooth functioning of Bharat’s democracy. By allowing the ECI to operate without undue pressure of allegations, the Supreme Court has taken a crucial step in ensuring that electoral processes remain transparent yet secure.

Why Was ECI Against Disclosure?

No legal mandate to give Form 17C to anyone other than polling agent, EC  submits to SC | Elections News - The Indian Express
PC The Indian Express

On 22nd May 2024, the ECI presented a detailed affidavit that stated that it faces no legal obligation to publish final authenticated voter turnout data for all polling stations. It also asserted that releasing booth-wise data digitally, which includes postal ballot counts, could lead to confusion among voters.

Furthermore, the ECI expressed concerns over digital fraud. The poll body states that the indiscriminate uploading of sensitive electoral data could be manipulated by vested interests. The potential for digital fraud increases manifold if the document becomes publicly accessible.

In today’s technologically advanced world, digitized documents and electoral data can be susceptible to hacking, phishing, and other forms of cyber attacks.

By withholding the digital release of specific voter turnout data, the ECI aims to protect the electoral process from these digital threats. However, all the data is  available in writing and shared with each polling agent/candidate. Thus, transparency and accountability are maintained at all levels. ECI is reluctant to make digital copies of the data available. The decision is meant to ensure that election data remains tamper-proof is crucial for maintaining public trust in the democratic process.

In Conclusion

Disclosure Of Form 17C May Be Used By Persons With Motivated Interests To  Cast Aspersions On
PC Verdictum

Consequently, the Supreme Court’s adjournment on the plea asking for disclosure of booth-wise voter turnout data under Form 17C is deeply appreciated. While the INDI Alliance is trying to discredit the democratic process in Bharat, the ECI and its officials need to ensure transparency as well as security.

Therefore, protecting the electoral process from potential digital fraud and maintaining public trust in democratic institutions is of primal important.

As technology continues to evolve, the ECI’s cautious approach to digital data dissemination is essential to safeguarding the integrity of Bharat’s elections. Thus, this decision to adjourn the case is a measured and balanced approach to protect sensitive information from malicious exploitation. Moreover, it allows the proven system of democracy to complete its work without the pressure of allegations. Thank You, MiLords!!!

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