The Supreme Court has on Friday, i.e. 19th March observed that it will consider the plea filed seeking directions to Election Commission to use name, age, qualification & photograph of contesting candidates on EVM instead of Symbol of Political parties. The Court has said that it will not issue a notice at this stage. The court has asked the petitioner to serve a copy to the Attorney General and stated that it will consider the plea.
“Serve a copy on the Attorney General or Solicitor General. We will consider it. We will not issue notice at this stage,” the Bench observed. A three-judge Bench of CJI Bobde, Justice Bopanna and Justice Ramasubramanian issued the direction while hearing plea against the use of political party symbols on EVMs.
Contention of the petitioner:
The plea filed by Advocate and BJP leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay has sought removal of political symbol from EVMs to provide equal opportunity to contesting candidates and to weedout the 7 menaces of democracy being corruption, criminalization, casteism, communalism, regionalism, linguism and nepotism. According to the plea, the injury caused to the public is extremely large because 'free and fair election' is the basic dictum of our democracy and 'right to vote' is an important statutory right of citizens but practically both have become a dead letter due to use of political party symbol on ballot paper and EVM, which leads to confusion among voters and result in casting of wrong votes. “Our democracy is suffering from seven menaces- Corruption, Criminalization, Casteism, Communalism, Lingusism, Regionalism and Nepotism and the best solution to weed these menaces is to replace political party symbols on Ballot & EVM with Name, Age, Education Qualification and Photograph of the Candidates. Ballot and EVM without political party symbol have many benefits,” the plea states. The plea has further argued that:
- the use of party symbol on Ballot-EVM, breaches the rights guaranteed under Articles 14-15 read with Articles 325-326 as it prevents free exercise of right to vote due to use of money power by candidates. It also affects ordinary citizen's rights to get elected and puts him to great disadvantage due to reduced win-ability factor as independent.
- use of party symbol on Ballot-EVM is arbitrary and irrational because it invites and enables criminal backgrounds to buy ticket from National and State recognized political parties and contest election.
- use of political party symbol on Ballot-EVM brazenly offends equity, equality and equal opportunity, guaranteed under Articles 14, 15, 21 & mentioned in Preamble of the Constitution.
Senior Advocate Vikas Singh was appearing on behalf of the petitioner, who submitted that Brazil doesn't have any symbol and only numbers are given for contesting. Further, he said that there was no such mention in Constitution in 10th schedule in 1985 and even in representation of people act when the political parties were being registered for the first time. “We want to know how the Objection to having symbol on EVM, how does it prejudice electoral process?” the Bench asked. Singh responded by saying that the candidate's value is not seen, his intrinsic value is not seen. It goes by the symbol. He added that they had also addressed a letter regarding this to the Election Commission on 4th April 2020, but they haven't responded till date. The plea has therefore prayed the following:
- Declare that use of party symbol on EVM is illegal-unconstitutional and violative of Articles 14, 15, 21 of the Constitution of India.
- Declare that the words 'and symbol' occurring in Rule 49B(4)(a) of the Conduct of Election Rules 1961, are contrary to Articles 14, 15, and 21 of the Constitution, and hence void and inoperative.
- Direct the Election Commission of India to use the 'Name, Age, Educational Qualification and Photograph' of the candidates on EVM, in order to provide equal opportunity to contesting candidates and to weed out corruption criminalization casteism communalism regionalism linguism and nepotism, the 07 menaces of democracy.
In the alternative, being custodian of the Constitution and protector of fundamental rights, the plea has asked the top court to direct the Election Commission of India to use its plenary power conferred under Article 324, to remove the symbols from Ballot and EVM and use Name, Age, Educational Qualification and Photograph of the contesting candidates. [READ ORDER]