New Delhi: The government today favoured in the Supreme Court the existing practice of booth-wise counting of votes, saying it helps candidates and political parties in improving their performance.
The government told the court that the Election Commission proposal for using totaliser machine for counting of votes was referred to a team of ministers, headed by the Union Home Minister, for examining its feasibility and usefulness.
The Union government's response came on a petition which has claimed that "the declaration of result of every polling booth strikes at the root of right to privacy attached to voting".
In its affidavit, the government said the team of ministers held its final meeting on September 7 last year and decided the issue, while the EC has clarified that use of totaliser machine could not be on experimental basis in select places "since its deployment for that purpose too would need amendment in the relevant rules".
"The team of ministers has come to the conclusion that revelation of booth-wise votes polled by a candidate would perhaps be more beneficial and useful since it would facilitate the candidates and parties to find out the areas where they have shown better result and where they have not shown good result so as to work more for that area by bringing more developmental activities to improve their performance in future elections," the Centre said in its affidavit.
"The team of ministers have arrived at a conclusion that use of totaliser for counting of votes does not appear to serve any larger public interest and that there is not enough justification for its introduction at this juncture," it said in the affidavit filed before a bench of Justices Dipak Misra and A M Khanwilkar.
During the hearing, the bench, which has fixed the matter for further hearing on September 7, wanted to know whether it can, in exercise of power, command the Central government to frame certain rules based on the recommendations of the EC.
"Secrecy of vote in election process is important", the apex court said, adding "suppose the Law Commission or the EC makes a recommendation for framing of certain regulation and the Central government says that it does not find it appropriate, can the Supreme Court get into the arena of justifiability of why the government is not accepting the recommendations?"
The counsel appearing for the EC told the apex court that secrecy would be "lost" if it was revealed that who has voted for whom in an election.
He said every action has to be supported by a statutory law and the government's approval was needed on the recommendations made by it.
To this, the bench asked, "Has the EC got the right to frame a rule to have a totaliser?"
Responding to the query, the EC's counsel said, "No. The rules have to be framed by the government".
The government's affidavit said that the team of ministers was of the view that instances of intimidation and victimisation of voters, as apprehended, might not occur on a large scale in "this era of media activism".
"It was observed that if any such incident takes place in the present scenario of informed society, the same would be highlighted in the electronic and the print media as well as the social media which would definitely affect adversely the parties/candidates performance in future elections," it said.
"This position will make the parties and the candidates circumspect since the public cannot be taken for granted at all times," the affidavit said.
The government further said that it was observed by the team of ministers that the use of totaliser might not completely rule out such "stray instances of mischief".
"However, it was considered that the issue of use of totaliser could be considered at a later point of time if such situations warrant," it said.
The PIL filed by Punjab-based advocate Yogesh Gupta, has contended that "the uniform way of declaration of result for the entire constituency as a whole would bring balanced growth and balanced funding and it would also reduce cases fuelled by political vendetta, ill-will and hatred".
"In the present form of declaration of result, the political parties would become aware of the wards where they have not been voted and where they have got maximum votes," the petition has said....