Indian Supreme Court Seeks Response From Election Commission (EC) Regarding Right To Privacy Attached To Voting

Indian Supreme Court Seeks Response From Election Commission (EC) Regarding Right To Privacy Attached To VotingPrivacy right has not been specifically conferred by the Constitution of India. But the same has been interpreted to be part of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution and is deemed to be a part of life and liberty by the Supreme Court of India. The privacy rights in the information era have further expanded the scope of privacy rights in India. Despite the importance of this basic human rights we have no dedicated data protection laws in India (PDF) and privacy laws in India. In fact, when it comes to respecting Privacy of Indian Citizens, Government of India tries its level best to avoid the same.

For instance, India has launched Projects like Aadhar, National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID), Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS), National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), Central Monitoring System (CMS), Centre for Communication Security Research and Monitoring (CCSRM), Internet Spy System Network And Traffic Analysis System (NETRA) of India, etc. None of them are governed by any Legal Framework and none of them are under Parliamentary Scrutiny.

Now it has been reported that the Supreme Court today sought the response of the Election Commission (EC) on a plea seeking an end to ward-wise counting of votes on the ground that the declaration of result of every polling booth strikes at the root of right to privacy attached to voting.

A bench comprising justices Dipak Mishra and N V Ramana issued notice to the EC and sought its reply by 21 May on a proposal that the result of every parliamentary constituency be declared as a whole and not through ward-wise counting of votes of every electronic voting machine (EVM).

The petition said, “The result of every EVM must not be disclosed.” The bench was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Punjab-based advocate Yogesh Gupta submitting that “the uniform way of declaration of result for the entire constituency as a whole would bring balanced growth and balanced funding and it would also reduce cases fuelled by political vendetta, ill will and hatred”.

The petition, which has come four days ahead of the counting of votes for ongoing Lok Sabha election, said the result is again going to be declared by announcing the outcome of every EVM which would lead to adverse impact on the voters as the political parties would harass the electorate in areas where it has not received the votes.

To buttress his contention that an amendment in the system would reduce intimidation and blackmail tactics, the lawyer cited reported threat by Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar to residents of Baramati village on the eve of polling that he would cut off water supply if they did not cast their ballot in favour of his cousin and sitting NCP MP Supriya Sule.

“In the present form of declaration of result the political parties would become aware of the wards where they have not been voted and where they have got maximum votes,” the petition said, adding that “the present form of declaration of results also acts as a catalyst for the registration of false cases based on political vendetta against the persons who have not voted for the victorious parties”.

The advocate submitted that the proposed manner of declaration of results of every parliamentary constituency as a whole would go a long way in restoring the right of privacy as the political parties will not be able to find out the number of votes cast in their favour from different wards and the political parties would only get information regarding the votes cast in the entire constituency.