Plea in SC seeks to put end to ‘drunk vot­ing’

DNA (Delhi) - - STATE OF POLLS -

A vote cast by a per­son un­der the in­flu­ence of al­co­hol is in vi­o­la­tion of the sanc­tity of the demo­cratic process. Kethireddy Ja­gadeesh­war Reddy, a so­cial ac­tivist

New Delhi: A PIL has been filed in the Supreme Court seek­ing in­stal­la­tion of breath anal­y­sers and other de­vices at polling booths to prevent peo­ple from cast­ing votes un­der the in­flu­ence of al­co­hol.

The pe­ti­tion, which has made the Elec­tion Com­mis­sion and the Cen­tre as par­ties, has been filed by Kethireddy Ja­gadeeswar Reddy, a so­cial ac­tivist and pres­i­dent of NGO Tamil­nad Tel­ugu Yuva Sak­thi, Chen­nai and is likely to come up for hear­ing next week.

It said that in­stal­la­tion of such de­vices is “im­per­a­tive” for con­duct­ing “free and fair” elec­tion and the con­duct of fair poll is be­ing “hin­dered by the per­va­sive ex­ploita­tion of al­co­holism” at the in­stance of po­lit­i­cal par­ties.

It fur­ther said the dis­tri­bu­tion of al­co­hol as a bribe to ma­nip­u­late vot­ers is a phe­nom­e­non that has been widely re­ported and ju­di­cial in­ter­ven­tion is needed to en­sure free and fair poll which is the hall­mark of a democ­racy.

“Al­co­hol and other in­tox­i­cat­ing sub­stances are dis­trib­uted on a large scale among vot­ers dur­ing elec­tion time as a means to gar­ner their favour and vote. De­spite man­i­fold ef­forts to curb this prac­tice, liquor pol­i­tics con­tin­ues to be a ram­pant phe­nom­e­non that threat­ens the very tenets if free and fair elec­tion,” the plea said.

It fur­ther said though the ex­ist­ing le­gal dis­pen­sa­tion at­tempts to curb this prac­tice from the source by hin­der­ing dis­tri­bu­tion, there is a crit­i­cal lack of safe­guards to mon­i­tor and curb the prac­tice at the re­ceiv­ing end.

“Polling booths and polling of­fi­cers are lo­gis­ti­cally un­equipped to de­tect in­tox­i­cated per­sons and are legally and statu­to­rily un­equipped to prevent in­tox­i­cated vot­ers from vi­o­lat­ing the sanc­tity of the elec­toral process. The ex­ist­ing regime con­tains a la­cuna that does not ac­count for the ca­pac­ity of the voter to cast the vote,” the plea said.

It fur­ther sought a com­pre­hen­sive frame­work gov­ern­ing the treat­ment of a vote cast by an in­tox­i­cated per­son.

“It is im­per­a­tive that the va­lid­ity of the vote has to be con­tin­gent on the ca­pac­ity of the voter to make a sound de­ci­sion. It is a well set­tled prin­ci­ple of law that a per­son un­der the in­flu­ence of al­co­hol is deemed to be tem­po­rar­ily of un­sound mind.

“Ac­cord­ingly, a vote cast by a per­son un­der the in­flu­ence of al­co­hol is in vi­o­la­tion of the sanc­tity of the demo­cratic process,” the pe­ti­tion said.

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