HC to EC: Fix errors in electoral rolls by Jan 28th

The last couple of months have been exasperating for citizens who wanted their names in the voters’ list. There have been random name deletions, false names and addresses in the roll. Now the High Court has ordered the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), Karnataka, to ensure suo moto that errors in the list should be fixed. Court ordered on December 11th, that CEO should publish the final corrected list on January 28th.

As per this, public will not have to run around to get their details corrected; election officers will have to verify the entire list themselves.

The order came in a PIL jointly filed by Retd Commander P G Bhat, civil society group Daksh, Lok Satta party, and SmartVote which has been campaigning for voter enrollment. The petitioners had pointed out major errors in the electoral rolls such as misspelling/repetition of voters’ names, wrong address/sex, inclusion of those below the age of 18 years etc. Even worse, around 10 lakh voter names were randomly removed from the list.

The order, passed by the Division Bench of Chief Justice Vikramjit Sen and Justice B V Nagarathna, said all these points were valid, and that the CEO should take suo moto action. The CEO’s lawyer had said in court that citizens have already been asked to send objections on the draft roll, before December 31st. But court said that whether the CEO gets objections or not, he still has to get the full list corrected.

The petitioners are satisfied with the order. In a press release, DAKSH member and lawyer in the case, Harish Narasappa, says that the order is a major victory for citizens who have been disenfranchised en masse. "It will ensure that voters who have been deleted arbitrarily from the voter rolls are reinstated automatically by the officials, and the common man does not have to run from pillar to post to get reinstated." He warns that they will go back to court if the order is not implemented properly.

Ashwin Mahesh, who represented Loksatta Party in the case, says, "The EC has been deleting people as per their administrative convenience, and as a result of shoddy data-keeping, making it ridiculously hard to get on the electoral rolls in the first place. Bangalore is supposedly the IT capital of India, maybe the EC should take some lessons in database management".

CEO Anil Kumar Jha, on the other hand, says that work is already on, to fix issues. Jha was appointed as CEO recently, on December 7th. "We already have tools to check if any there are any missing fields, name duplication etc in our database. EROs (Electoral Registration Officers) will generate error reports using this, and send the reports to booth level officers. They will also send the list of names deleted in the last 1-2 years. Based on these lists, booth level officers have to go door-to-door and verify voter details."

Jha says that booth level officers will also carry forms that voters have to submit to modify their details. This way, if any change is needed, the voter can fill and submit the form to the officer right away. Last week, CEO officials and BBMP also had a meeting with RWAs (Resident Welfare Associations). RWAs have been asked to appoint volunteers, and EROs and booth level officers have to get in touch with them to verify details of RWA members.

Name inclusion in the list is also on till December 31st. Ward level offices and 21 selected Bangalore One centres continue to accept inclusion forms. "Banners have been put on the Bangalore One centres for public notice. We are also fixing technical problems in the online voter registration form," Jha says.

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