Noting that the Election Commission (EC) had deleted 45,836 entries in the electoral roll, following a verification on a representation made by the DMK, a bench of justices TS Sivagnanam and K Ravichandrabaabu said these deleted figures were not minimal or negligible.
"These figures undoubtedly shock our judicial conscience as the total number of (names of) voters deleted so far itself is alarmingly very high. In other words, one-fifth of the present eligible voters or 45,836 voters were found to be not eligible to vote and (their names) were deleted," it said.
The deleted entries included multiple entries of same voters with a different address or age.
This sort of entries, if not found and corrected at the appropriate time, would have resulted in bogus voting, as rightly contended by the petitioner, the bench said, adding that it was needless to say that even a single vote might change the outcome of the by poll.
Observing that elections were the sole lifeline of a democracy, it said, "We do expect the Election Commission to take severe action" not only against such deleted voters, but also against the person or persons or political party or parties instrumental in effecting the inclusion of these entries.
The punishment against those persons must be "severe in nature, even to the extent of banning" them from voting in or contesting an election permanently, it said.
"Unless such strong measures are taken and messages sent, this sort of evil attempts will continue, which will only result in a mockery of democracy," the bench said.
The court directed the EC to keep under the shifted list the names of 1,947 voters, found to be multiple entries even after the deletion of 45,836 voters.
The order was passed on a miscellaneous petition filed by the DMK, seeking to re-open its PIL regarding the voters' list, on the ground that it still contained multiple entries of voters' names.
The bench, in its order, appreciated the main opposition party in the state for the steps taken by it to purify the electoral roll.
"We strongly believe that the EC will take all effective steps and assure the people that a free-and-fair election will never be compromised on any account and the same will be achieved at any cost, as an election is the sole lifeline of a democracy," it added.
Earlier, on November 21, the first bench of the court, headed by Chief Justice Indira Banerjee, had disposed off the PIL filed by the DMK, seeking a door-to-door verification of the voters' list, as infructuous after recording a submission of the EC that 45,836 names of voters were deleted.
The DMK had moved the court again, contending that about 5,000 more entries needed to be deleted from the list.
The high court had, on December 11, reserved orders on the plea after hearing the DMK and the EC.
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