It is illegal to remove a voter from the voters list without giving him an opportunity of hearing, the high court has said. Inaction by the voter in getting his name restored also won’t justify such action, the court said.
The judgment by Justice Shaji P Chaly came after considering a petition filed by 64-year-old A Subair of Chala in Thiruvananthapuram, questioning the removal of his name from the voters’ list prepared for the Lok Sabha elections this year. Names of his wife and daughter were retained while his was removed on the report of booth level officer that he changed his residence..
Referring to Section 22 of the Representation of the People Act of 1950, the court pointed out that the statute says the voter should be given a reasonable opportunity of being heard.
The judgment said, “On an evaluation of the said provisions, it is explicit that, they are peremptory in nature and can never be brushed aside or overlooked. Proviso thereto makes it clear that before removing a person from the voters list, the electoral registration officer is duty bound to give the person concerned a reasonable opportunity of being heard in respect of the action proposed to be taken. Which thus also means, the action or enquiry contemplated under Sec 22 of the Act, 1950 is not an empty formality, but on the other hand, founded on principles of natural justice, which if violated, action becomes arbitrary and illegal inviting action against the officer concerned.” No opportunity of hearing was given to the petitioner in the case, the court added.
The Election Commission had contended that the removal from voters’ list was preceded by several steps such as inviting objections to draft electoral roll, including giving publicity to ‘deleted lists’ and that a final electoral roll was published at the end of a process that lasted over a year.
After finding that no opportunity of hearing was granted to the petitioner, the court said, “It is also apposite to mention that, mere inaction on the part of the petitioner to restore the name removed from the voters list, is not a justification for removing the name, otherwise than in accordance with law.”
The court then ordered the chief election commissioner of Kerala to conduct a detailed inquiry into the incident and, if required, take appropriate action against the officers who removed the petitioner’s name from the voters list within two weeks..