Bengaluru: ECI to send notices to voters after publication of final electoral list

Sending notices to residents after the publication of the final electoral list by the Election Commission of India (ECI) is a violation of the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) established by the ECI.
Shivajinagar in Bengaluru
Shivajinagar in Bengaluru
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The Election Commission of India (ECI) recently announced that electors identified as shifted and dead in three Assembly constituencies of Bengaluru would get 'another opportunity' to file objections and make corrections. The decision comes following the identification of 16,040 electors as shifted or dead in Shivajinagar, Shantinagar, and Rajarajeshwari Nagar Assembly constituencies to ensure that legitimate voters are not denied their right to vote. The ECI stated that they will send a notice to people whose names have been identified as shifted or dead in electoral rolls. The notice will contain a list of the proposed deletions and will be given through newspapers in the area by the Electoral Registration Officer.

Responding to the paper notification issued by ECI, Congress MLA of Shivajinagar, Rizwan Arshad told TNM, “ECI is setting a dangerous precedent that any political party can file a complaint urging them to delete voters. We will appeal in court. This is a clear violation of SOPs.”

Sending out notices after the publication of the final electoral list is a violation of the Standard Operating Procedures established by the ECI on September 13, 2021. “No suo-moto deletions can be done in an election year when a general election to the State Assembly or House of People is due in the State concerned during the 6 months ending on the date of expiry of the term of the said house. However, suo-moto deletion can be done in special circumstances, after obtaining the Commission's approval,” states the SOP.

The ECI has defended its actions by citing a clause that allows for deletions from the electoral roll under ‘special circumstances’. In this case, a contentious complaint was filed in October 2022, by activists of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alleging 26,000 fake voters in Shivajinagar constituency, which has a majority Muslim and Dalit population.

The ECI had earlier issued notices to 9,159 residents in the Shivajinagar Assembly constituency to prove their residence, following the complaint. The ECI ordered a 100% check of all deletions and additions to the electoral rolls in the constituency. While 22 residents have been granted a reprieve after submitting proof of their continued address, the fate of the remaining voters hangs in the balance, leading to accusations of voter harassment and a violation of the fundamental right to vote.

An investigation by TNM in November 2022 revealed that a private agency with links to the BJP had been collecting voter data illegally. The investigation also found that hundreds of voters, particularly Muslims and Dalits, in the Shivajinagar constituency were in danger of having their names removed from the electoral roll. Twenty-two people filed a writ petition in the Karnataka High Court seeking the retention of their names in the electoral roll. They also submitted a memo that they had submitted proof of their address. Following this, the ECI submitted to the court that their names would not be deleted from the roll.

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