What EC can do in Case Normal Polling Process is Disrupted?

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What EC can do in Case Normal Polling Process is Disrupted? Blog Image

What’s in today’s article?

  • Why in News?
  • Framework for Handling Situations where the Normal Polling Process is Disrupted
  • Some Circumstances when the Normal Polling Process is Disrupted

Why in News?

  • The Election Commission of India (ECI), under Sections 58(2) and 58A(2) of the Representation of People Act 1951 (RPA), declared void the poll on April 19 in 19 polling stations of Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.
  • Elections were also adjourned in Madhya Pradesh’s Betul Lok Sabha constituency due to the death of a candidate on April 9.
  • In the first case, repolls were conducted on April 22 and April 24 respectively, and the polling in MP will now be held on May 7 (originally scheduled on April 26).

Framework for Handling Situations where the Normal Polling Process is Disrupted

  • India’s election laws provide a framework for handling situations where the normal polling process is disrupted for any reason, including -
    • Damage to EVMs,
    • Booth-capturing,
    • Natural disasters, or
    • A candidate’s death.
  • The provisions for repolls, adjournments and the voiding of polls ensure that the democratic process remains fair, transparent and uninterrupted.

Some Circumstances when the Normal Polling Process is Disrupted

  • Intentional destruction, taking away of EVMs:
    • Under Section 58 of the RPA (‘Fresh poll in the case of destruction, etc., of ballot boxes’), the EC can declare the poll at a polling station to be void if:
      • An unauthorised person has unlawfully taken away any EVM;
      • Any EVM has been accidentally or intentionally destroyed, or lost, or damaged, or tampered with; or
      • A mechanical failure develops in any EVM during the recording of votes.
    • In such cases, the Returning Officer (RO) immediately informs the ECI and the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of the state about the relevant facts and material circumstances.
    • After considering this, the ECI can declare the poll void and formally fix the date and time for a new poll.
    • During the repoll, the voters’ left middle fingers are inked to distinguish between the mark made during the original poll (on their left forefinger).
  • Booth capturing:
    • Booth-capturing, defined in Section 135A of the RPA, includes all or any of the following activities by any person or persons:
      • Seizure of a polling station, affecting the conduct of elections;
      • Taking possession of a polling station, allowing only his or their supporters to vote;
      • Intimidating or threatening any elector and preventing him from going to the polling station;
      • Seizure of a counting place affecting the counting of votes;
      • Involvement of any person in government service in any of the above activities.
    • Booth capturing is punishable for a term of not less than one year, which may extend to three years for lay people, and not less than three years, extending to five years for government servants.
    • In such case, the ECI, based on the material facts (from Presiding Officer and RO), may -
      • Declare the poll at that polling station to be void and direct a fresh poll on a new date; or
      • Countermand the election in the constituency in case booth capturing has taken place in a large number of polling stations, or if it has affected the counting of votes.
  • Natural disasters, other disruptions to polling:
    • The Presiding Officer of a polling station can adjourn the poll at a polling station under section 57(1) of the Representation of the People Act 1951, in case of:
      • A natural calamity like a flood, a severe storm;
      • Non-receipt or loss or damage to essential polling materials like EVM, electoral roll etc;
      • Interruption or obstruction due to any riot or, open violence;
      • Non-arrival of the polling party due to obstruction or any other serious difficulty; or
      • Non-commencement of the poll within two hours from the scheduled time due to malfunctioning of EVM, or any other reason.
    • After seeking the ECI’s approval on the date and hours, the adjourned poll will recommence from the stage at which it was left immediately before the adjournment.
    • Only electors who have not already voted before the poll was adjourned are permitted to vote.
  • Death of a candidate:
    • As per Section 52 of RPA (amended in 1996), the poll shall be adjourned only in case of the death of a recognised political party’s candidate.
    • The above provision applies if the candidate with a valid nomination dies at any time after 11.00 a.m. on the last date for making nominations, until the commencement of the poll.
    • The RO reports the fact to the EC and orders the adjournment of the poll to a date to be notified later by the Commission.
    • The EC then calls upon the concerned political party to nominate another candidate for the said election in place of the deceased candidate.
    • The political party must make the nomination within seven days.

Q.1. What does Returning Officer mean?

A Returning Officer is responsible for overseeing election in one constituency may be two constituencies at the most. A Returning Officer is called so because he holds the election in the constituency and returns the result.

Q.2. How is the chief electoral officer (CEO) chosen?

The statutory post of Chief Electoral Officer is chosen through collaboration between the Election Commission of India and the concerned State Government under section 13A of the Representation of Peoples Act 1950.

Source: Expert Explains | On repolls, voided polls, adjournments: What EC can do in case normal polling process is disrupted