SC dismisses voter breathalyser test plea

Judges deemed the plea as more of a publicity stunt than a genuine legal concern…reports Asian Lite News

The Supreme Court recently rejected a plea advocating for breathalyser tests of voters queued at polling booths during elections. The petition, presented by the Andhra Pradesh unit of the Janavahini Party, argued that voters should not be permitted to cast their ballots under the influence of alcohol, especially given the imposition of the model code of conduct.

However, Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta deemed the plea as more of a publicity stunt than a genuine legal concern, echoing the Andhra Pradesh High Court’s earlier decision to dismiss the petition.

The bench expressed skepticism towards the petition’s motives, asserting that the demand for breathalyser tests appeared to be aimed at garnering attention rather than addressing a substantial issue.

They pointed out the existing measures on polling days, such as the enforcement of dry laws and the deployment of police personnel across voting precincts, as sufficient deterrents against alcohol-related interference in the voting process.

Initially filed in the high court, the plea failed to convince the judiciary of its legal merits. The court noted the absence of specific legal provisions obligating the Election Commission of India to implement breathalyser tests at polling booths.

The Janavahini Party’s representation, issued on January 6, urged the Election Commission to adopt such measures to ensure that only sober voters exercised their franchise. However, the high court found this representation lacking in legal grounds.

The Janavahini Party persisted in challenging the Election Commission’s inaction, seeking a court order mandating the deployment of breathalyser devices at polling booth entrances. Their objective was to restrict voting rights to individuals unaffected by alcohol consumption, thereby safeguarding the integrity of the electoral process

 Despite their efforts, both the high court and the Supreme Court ultimately dismissed the plea, underscoring the absence of legal mandates compelling such measures and considering the existing election day protocols as adequate safeguards against alcohol-related disruptions.

‘No anonymous political hoardings’

 The Election Commission of India (ECI) has cracked down on anonymous political hoardings while issuing directions for disclosure of publishers and printers on them for traceability and accountability.

The ECI on Wednesday directed all states and Union Territories to make it mandatory for all parties to clearly publish the identification of the printer and publisher on printed election-related material.

According to the ECI, the directions will be implemented on all political hoardings, ensuring accountability and transparency in the campaign communications.

The decision was taken by the Commission consisting of Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar, and Election Commissioners Gyanesh Kumar and Sukhbir Singh Sandhu after representations were received in the poll panel stating that in advertising spaces controlled by Municipal authorities, hoardings without the identity of the printer or publisher had been noticed.

The poll panel said that the Representation of the People Act, 1951, unequivocally prohibits the printing or publishing of election pamphlets, posters, placards, or banners without prominently displaying the name and address of the printer and publisher.

This requirement of disclosing the identity of publishers serves as a cornerstone for regulating campaign financing and fixing of responsibility in case content is found unbecoming of the framework of Model Code of Conduct or the statutory provisions, the ECI official added.

It may be recalled that CEC Rajiv Kumar highlighted addressing the issue of misinformation as one of the challenges, along with money and muscle power, for a level playing field.

With this directive, the Commission now has put the accountability on printers, publishers, licensees, contractors of Urban Local Bodies renting out outdoor advertising space for political advertisements published on outdoor media.

This is in continuation of the ECI’s recent advisory vide press note dated 02.04.2024 to editors of all newspapers to be cautious while publishing political advertisements in newspapers.

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