New Delhi: A team of ministers has been constituted to take a call on using a new machine which prevents disclosure of voting pattern during counting to enhance voter secrecy.
The move comes against the backdrop of the Supreme Court asking the Centre to decide on the issue by next month.
The five-member team headed by Home Minister Rajnath Singh was set up on the directions of the Prime Minister’s Office to recommend to the Union Cabinet on whether the machines can be used.
The other members include Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.
The Election Commission had in 2008 proposed to use ‘totaliser’, which prevents disclosure of voting pattern during counting to enhance voter secrecy, and has received the backing of the Law Commission.
The issue was pending with the government. On 5 August, a Supreme Court bench, while hearing a writ petition, gave the Centre eight weeks time to take a “final decision” on the issue and post the matter for further hearing in February, 2017.
“The writ petition has been coming up for hearing during the last two years in the Supreme Court, and the court has been pushing hard for taking a view in the matter at the earliest,” a Law Ministry note on the issue said.
The Law Ministry is the administrative ministry for the poll body.
The poll panel is of the view that with the use of totaliser, a further level of secrecy in voting and the mixing of votes at the time of counting will be achieved. It said the machine will prevent the disclosure of pattern of voting at a particular polling station.
The law panel, in its report on electoral reforms submitted to the Supreme Court on March 10, 2015 had supported the use of the new machine.
It has recommended amendment to the Conduct of Election Rules to give EC powers to use totaliser for mixing of votes where it apprehends intimidation and victimisation of electors in a constituency.
The Law Ministry is of the view that no electoral law will have be amended to introduce totalisers. Amending the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 “would suffice”, it had said.
The rationale behind EC’s proposal was that the current system revealed the voting trends in each polling station, thus leaving the voters in that vicinity open to harassment, intimidation and post-election victimisation.
“Prior to the introduction of EVMs, ballot papers could be mixed, wherever it was considered absolutely necessary under the Conduct of Election Rules in light of apprehended intimidation and victimisation of electors. However, EVMs do not permit this,” the law panel noted in its report.