The Delhi High Court on Monday directed Delhi University to keep in safe custody, the Electronic Voting Machines used in the student union elections following a plea by three candidates of the Congress-backed National Students Union of India (NSUI) challenging the polls.
Justice Siddharth Mridul also asked the Chief Electoral Officer, appointed by the DU for conducting the polls, to securely keep the paper trails and other documents under his lock and key.
The court sought response of the Delhi University, Chief Electoral Officer, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Election Commission of India and the three ABVP candidates who have won the recent elections -- Ankit Basoya, Shakti Singh and Jyoti Choudhary.
"The Chief Electoral Officer appointed by the Delhi University to conduct elections of Delhi University Students Union (DUSU) is directed to ensure that EVMs utilised for conducting polling and counting of votes and all paper trails and documentations are kept in safe base and are kept under his lock and key," the judge said.
The court, which listed the matter for further hearing on October 29, refused to allow the oral prayer of counsel for the petitioners to restrain the newly elected officer bearers from functioning.
Three NSUI candidates -- Sunny Chhillar, Meena and Saurabh Yadav -- have approached the high court challenging the elections on the grounds that voting machines were allegedly tampered with.
The plea sought that electronic voting machines (EVM) used in the DUSU polls be secured to ensure they do not go missing.
Senior Advocate Anoop George Chaudhari, appearing for NSUI candidates, claimed that out of 12 EVMs, seven had gone missing.
The plea alleged that EVMs were tampered with and questioned as to how "privately procured" EVMs could have been used in the polls held on September 12.
During the hearing, Central government standing counsel Anil Soni, appearing for the HRD ministry, said the same EVMs were used in the DUSU polls held in 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2017 but the NSUI had not raised any objections then.
He said the petitioners have challenged the elections for three posts won by ABVP candidates and not the one seat bagged by NSUI.
The office of the Chief Electoral Officer in Delhi had said last Thursday that EVMs used in the DUSU elections were not issued by the Election Commission of India and seem to have been procured privately.
The ABVP, student wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, on September 13 bagged three posts including that of the President in the student union elections.
The NSUI won only one seat, while the AAP's student wing CYSS, which fought the elections in alliance with Left-backed AISA, failed to open its account.
Polling took place at 52 centres in the colleges and there were as many as 23 candidates in the fray.
In the petition, the NSUI candidates have sought a direction to declare the polls results as "arbitrary, illegal, void-ab-initio (to be treated as invalid from the outset) and violation of Article 14 (equality before law) of the Constitution" and quash it.
It also sought a direction to conduct fresh elections using ballot paper system or fresh polling and counting under the supervision of an independent person.
It alleged that the university has "adopted a practice which is fundamentally antithesis to the democratic principles and practice, de hors (outside of) the election laws and the Constitution of India."
The NSUI candidates alleged that the elections were conducted in an "arbitrary, corrupt and unfair" manner by the university and claimed it appeared that the varsity and the Chief Electoral Officer were acting under extraneous pressure.
"... the petitioner by noon was leading his opponent by 4,200 votes, all of a sudden the university abruptly stopped the counting on the ground of malfunctioning in the EVMs and after a gap of 5-6 hours, started recounting.
"The entire process was marred by clandestine process of tampering the EVMs...," the plea alleged.
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