The Delhi High Court Monday stayed an order of the Central Information Commission which held that Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) fall within the definition of 'information' under the RTI Act.
Justice V K Rao sought response of the CIC and an applicant, who had sought access to an EVM maintained by the Election Commission (EC) under the Right to Information Act, on a plea filed by the poll panel.
EC has filed petition challenging CIC's February 12 order holding that the EVM, which is available with the EC in a material form and also as samples, is an information under the RTI Act.
Senior advocate Sandeep Sethi and advocate Sidhant Kumar, representing the EC, said that EVM does not fall under the scope of the RTI Act which is primarily concerned with documentary records and representative models.
"The EVMs maintained by the petitioner (EC) are utilised in the conduct of elections all over the country in accordance with law. Further, the petitioner also maintains a small number of EVMs for the purposes of training of election officials and use in awareness programmes under the strict supervision of the petitioner. It is further submitted that the petitioner does not maintain any EVM in sample or model form," the poll panel said in its plea filed before the high court.
It added that all EVMs are securely stored in accordance with the manual on EVMs issued by the EC and the Representation of People Act.
The CIC's order had come on a plea by Rajasthan resident Razaak K Haidar who had said that as per Section 2(f) and 2(i) of the RTI Act, the definition of 'information' and 'record' also includes 'any model or any sample' held by a public authority.
He had initially filed an application with the Central Public Information Officer designated by ECI seeking access to an EVM maintained by the poll panel. It was rejected, after which Haidar filed an appeal before the Appellate Authority which also reiterated that the request is beyond the scope of RTI Act.
Thereafter, he approached the CIC with the same plea.
Section 2(f) of the RTI Act defines 'Information' as any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force.