File photo: Supreme Court building in New Delhi.
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 the 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," it said.