The Congress and the Election Commission Monday sparred in the Supreme Court over the pleas by two senior Congress leaders alleging duplication of names in the voters' lists for the upcoming Assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
A bench comprising Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan reserved its verdict after concluded the hearing of the pleas during which senior lawyers Kapil Sibal and Vikas Singh traded charges over conduct of the polls.
Sibal is representing Congress leaders Kamal Nath and Sachin Pilot while Singh is the counsel for the Election Commission of India (ECI). The two leaders also sought random verification of Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines in the two states.
Singh said attempts have been made to malign an important constitutional institution like the Election Commission and get favourable order by fabricating documents by alleging discrepancies in voters' lists.
"I stand by what I had said earlier," the senior lawyer said, adding the poll panel had taken note of the allegations of the Congress party and undertaken corrective measures with regard to discrepancies in the voters list which was evident from the EC's communication of June 8 this year.
Despite this, the Congress party alleged discrepancies in their petition in September and this was a clear attempt to malign the institution, he said, adding the leaders have "casually filed something" to "malign" and "denigrate" the poll panel.
Observing that free and fair polls is the "essence of democracy", Sibal strongly rebutted the submissions of the poll panel and referred to alleged discrepancies and duplication in the voters list, giving illustrations of four assembly constituencies in Madhya Pradesh.
Giving an illustration, Sibal said 36 voters have different details, but their photographs are the same and this assumed significance against the backdrop of 60 lakh fake voters having been found in Madhya Pradesh alone. Also, 24 lakh names have been deleted from the list by the poll panel, he alleged.
The plea filed by Nath through advocate Varun Chopra said directions should be issued to publish the voters list in a "text format as per rules", instead of the PDF format and expeditious decisions be taken on all complaints before its final publication.
Nath also said a direction should be issued to the poll panel to randomly verify VVPAT slips with Electronic Voting Machine(EVM) votes at 10 per cent of randomly selected polling stations in every constituency.
On September 18, the poll panel in its affidavit justified providing the draft electoral rolls in PDF format in Madhya Pradesh without any pictures of voters and said it was done to prevent manipulation of the electors data.
It had sought dismissal of the petition filed by Nath alleging duplication of names in the voters list as "not maintainable", "completely frivolous" and "an abuse of the process of court".
It was alleged that as per a survey, in Madhya Pradesh there were over 60 lakh fake voters and similarly, in Rajasthan, there were over 41 lakh duplicate voters.
In Rajasthan, the poll panels have added 71 lakh new voters, the plea said, adding that directions be given to remove inconsistencies and conduct free and fair elections.
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