The Election Commission of India has approached New Delhi police to register a case against those who have spread fake news stating that Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) can vote online in the 2019 general elections due this summer.
A compliant copy shared on its official twitter handle, the Election Commission states that action should taken against those who have spread the fake news through WhatsApp using the Election Commission’s logo to spread the fake news that claims NRIs can vote online in the 2019 general polls.
As follow up action, written to DCP New Delhi District to lodge FIR & investigate the matter of fake news, relating to voting by NRIs using ECI logo, currently in circulation on WhatsApp pic.twitter.com/2JpvRcAbzQ— Sheyphali Sharan (@SpokespersonECI) February 22, 2019
The Election Commission states that the fake news is causing confusion and misleading people, so the matter should be investigated and action should be taken under IPC Section 505 (1) (b) which pertains to 'public mischief'.
The Election Commission has also requested the police to investigate the matter promptly and take action according to the IPC Section(s) 463, 471, apart from the Section 3 of State Emblem of India ( Prohibition of Improper use) Act, 2005.
Last week, there were messages spread on Whatsapp groups stating that NRIs can vote online.
“Hello all, Those who hold Indian Passport can now vote online in 2019 elections. Please register yourself on https://eci.gov.in Please spread the news in different groups,” the Whatsapp message with Election Commission logo read.
BOOM analysed the message and found out that copy pasting the EC's website URL pulls in the logo in WhatsApp, a common trick by hoax creators to lend credibility to fake messages.
Currently, the 30 million Indians residing outside are not eligible for voting in Indian elections other than if they come in person to their respective polling booths.
In 2013, Dr Shamsheer Vayalil, UAE-based doctor and chairman of VPS Healthcare, along with Nagender Chindam of United Kingdom, who filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court seeking e-voting rights for NRIs.
In July 2018, Attorney General KK Venugopal had told the Supreme Court that NRIs could not be allowed to vote by merely changing the rules made under the Representation of People Act and a Bill was needed to be introduced.
The Supreme Court had asked the Centre to decide whether it would amend the electoral law or rules to allow NRIs to vote by postal or e-ballots in the polls in the country.
To enable NRIs to vote the Representation of People Act 1950 and Representation of People Act 1951 had to be amended.
The 1950 Act deals with the allocation of seats and delimitation of constituencies for elections, qualifications of voters and preparation of electoral rolls.
The 1951 Act provides for the conduct of elections and offenses and disputes related to elections. Section 20A of the 1950 Act recognizes the right of an NRI to have her name entered in the electoral roll.
However, the right to vote is exercisable only in person.
Fortunately, in order to allow proxy voting by NRIs, Section 60 of the 1951 Act was amended by the Bill, by adding a sub-section.
It is that Section 60 which enables the Election Commission of India (ECI) to frame rules to allow the special procedure for voting by a special class of persons.
And the Bill was passed in August 2018 in Lok Sabha.
However, Rajya Sabha session held between January 31 and February 13, this year failed to discuss and pass the Bill.
This week following the spread of fake news, Sheyphali Sharan, the official spokesperson of Election Commission of India, had also tweeted that “It has come to our notice that the following FAKE NEWS is circulating on some WhatsApp groups.
It has come to our notice that the following FAKE NEWS is circulating on some WhatsApp groups.— Sheyphali Sharan (@SpokespersonECI) February 21, 2019
It is clarified that you can only apply for voter registration online through https://t.co/oC8AwgyIdK portal pic.twitter.com/OTxjb1zFbA
“It is clarified that you can only apply for voter registration online through nvsp.in portal,” the tweet added.
“To cast vote, an overseas voter may come to his/her designated Polling station with Passport as document for identification,” the official spokesperson added in a following tweet.
To cast vote, an Overseas voter may come to his/her designated Polling station with Passport as document for identification.— Sheyphali Sharan (@SpokespersonECI) February 21, 2019