DELHI HIGH COURT HAS HELD THAT ELECTRONIC VOTING MACHINE IS NOT AN “INFORMATION” UNDER RIGHT TO INFORMATION ACT

The Delhi High Court has recently in Election Commission of India Vs. Central Information Commission and Another passed an Order dated 17-12-2019, whereby the Court allowed a Writ Petition filed by the Election Commission of India and held that the Right to Information Application (Application) made by Mr. Razak K Haider seeking an EVM, is actually an application for supply of a product and not any information under the Right to Information Act 2005 (Act).

On 20-04-2018, Mr. Razak K Haider had filed an Application before the Election Commission seeking access of the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) machine itself, on the ground that underSection 2(f) and 2(i) of the Act, the definition of’information’ and ‘record’ includes model or any sample. Hence, according to him, an EVM qualifies as ‘information’ and should be provided to him under Section 6(1) of the Act.

This Application was, however, rejected by the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO), reiterating that EVMs were not information in terms of Section 6(1) of the Act.

Aggrieved by the said Order of the CPIO, Mr. Haidar preferred an appeal under Section 19(3) of the Act before the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC), which held that EVMs come within the ambit of the definition of “information” and were therefore subject to the Act.

Thereafter, the Election Commission challenged the said Order of the CIC in the Hon’ble Delhi High Court on the ground that the list of items included in the definition as per Section 2(f) of the Act ought to be read ejusdem generis (i.e. denoting a rule for interpreting statutes and other writings by assuming that a general term, describing a list of specific terms, denotes other things that are like the specific elements).

The Delhi High Court then held that from a reading of Section 2(f) of the Act, it was clear that the Act dealt with records, document, memo, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force. The Court also suggested that the attempt to only rely upon the word “models”, as used in section 2(f) of the Act, to claim an EVM under the Act was “misplaced”, as the term ‘model’ usually represents a three dimensional representation of a thing or proposed structure, typically on a smaller scale than the original. Thus, the Court held that “Clearly, an EVM which is sought for by this RTI application is not miniature/replica and hence cannot said to be a model. It cannot be termed to be information within the meaning of Section 2(f) of the Act.

Govind Gupta

Associate

The Indian Lawyer

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