Fraudulent Acts Undermine Democracy - Eastern Mirror
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Editorial

Fraudulent Acts Undermine Democracy

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By The Editorial Team Updated: Feb 22, 2024 11:54 pm

The integrity of the electronic voting system has become a talking point again following the controversy surrounding the recent Chandigarh mayoral election and the subsequent overturning of its results by the Supreme Court of India, with senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh claiming that the rigging would not have come to light if the polling wasn’t conducted through ballot papers. Singh’s assertion may be debatable but the returning officer’s act of defacing eight ballot papers and declaring BJP candidate Manoj Sonkar as the winner is a matter of serious concern that can undermine democracy and cause distrust in the electoral system. The apex court had rightly chosen physical examination of ballot papers to determine the outcome of the poll rather than announcing a repoll, as there was no issue with the electoral process until the counting stage. Its statement that ensuring a free and fair electoral process is ‘imperative to maintain the legitimacy of and trust in representative democracy’ is reassuring, especially amid fingers being pointed at the credibility of the electronic voting machines (EVMs). The declaration of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)-Congress alliance candidate Kuldeep Kumar as the duly elected Mayor may have brought embarrassment to the ruling BJP and exposed the possibility of manipulation by officials during vote counting but acts that can create mistrust in the whole electoral system should be nipped from the bud. Failing to check electoral malpractices will weaken democracy.

The decision of the Supreme Court came at the right time, as the crucial Lok Sabha election is just a few months away. The initiation of criminal proceedings against the erring official should also act as a deterrent against fraudulent activities in the assembly and general elections too, considering the grave implication it can have on democracy. The apex court had, in the past, dismissed a petition requesting the audit of EVMs on the ground that making the source public could compromise the security of the machines and allow malicious actors to exploit the vulnerabilities, while the proponents stressed the importance of maintaining transparency. While the use of this technology has come under constant scrutiny from some political parties, its role in the Indian electoral landscape is immense and has become irreplaceable owing to the electorate size of the country. It is not feasible and may not be practical to go back to ballot papers. What can be done is build trust in the democratic system among the citizens by maintaining transparency in the electoral process. Towards this, the Indian judiciary and the Election Commission of India can reconsider their stance on the disclosure of the EVM source code while taking measures to protect the machines from malicious attacks. Be it a mayoral election or Lok Sabha poll, the use of ballot papers or electronic machines, there should not be room for any manipulation.

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By The Editorial Team Updated: Feb 22, 2024 11:54:50 pm
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