Winning a PIL

Chief Justice Vikramjit Sen of High Court, Karnataka, disposed our PIL with a judgement that starts as “We have perused the minutes of meeting held on 27.11.2012 by the CEO. It appears that the grievances ventilated in the Writ Petition are well founded.”

From June to August 2012 I had sent about 35 emails to CEO and EC pointing out large number of anomalies in the electoral rolls of 27 constituencies of Bangalore. In the list published on 20 July, the CEO deleted about 10 lakh voters from the rolls without due diligence. We highlighted this on press and TV. CEO did not respond in word or action to any of the observations and to my offers of help. He chose to deny the issue and ignore the feedback. With no other recourse left, we filed a PIL on 18 September 2012 requesting corrections to anomalies, especially incorrect deletions of about 10 lakh voters between April to July 2012. (Another about 3.5 lakh voters were deleted when the lists were published on 10 December.) EC, CEO, and DEOs of Bangalore were respondents to the petition.

In response, Dy. EC Dr. Alok Shukla called for a meeting at CEO, Karnataka, office on 27 November 2012 at 1130 hrs. CEO’s office called Nitin Jagtap of Smart Vote on 24th and invited him to the meeting and also sent an email about which he told me sooner he got the call. I prepared agenda points for the meeting with all the issues we had raised in PIL and mailed it to Dy CEO. I decided to attend the meeting even without invitation.

At 1100 on 27 November when I was ten minutes away from the venue of meeting, I got a phone call from Mr. Raju of CEO office, asking me to attend the meeting. When others were intimated 3 days in advance, I get 30 minutes notice! How politically correct!

About 30 officers of CEO and BBMP, two representatives each of Janaagraha and Smart Vote attended the meeting. I had a document with points to discuss, but the authorities who called the meeting did not seem to have a documented agenda. This helped the case because all the points discussed in the 4 hours meeting were from the agenda I had proposed. Weighed with facts and evidences, the Dy. EC accepted almost all the errors and omissions in the electoral rolls and directed his organisation to act on them.

Interestingly, officers of CEO and BBMP did not make notes during the long discussions. By late evening I prepared draft minutes of meeting and sent to the Dy. EC, CEO, and Commissioner of BBMP. With a few follow up requests to publish the minutes early, the CEO published them on 04 December. All the points from my draft were included, recording that EC / CEO / BBMP had accepted the issues raised in the PIL and had directed actions to remedy the situation. Left to CEO, the minutes could have taken much longer to document, if at all, and contents could have been different.

In the court on 11 December, lawyers of respondents requested for time to file objections. Harish Narasappa, who represented us, filed the minutes of meeting and showed that respondents had already accepted the issues raised in the PIL. That led to the first sentences of the judgement stating that our grievances were well founded. The judgement ends with, “We direct the CEO to suo motu look into the issues articulated in these Petitions as also the legitimacy of deletions carried out, regardless of whether objections from the public are received in this respect. With this observation, the Writ Petition is disposed of.”

In a post on ‘Deliberate Writing‘ I had written “We all need to write as part of our job. We cannot wait for inspiration or burst of emotions – we have to deliver documents against deadlines.”

I am glad that I followed the principle and wrote scores of emails, proposed agendas for meetings, and recorded all discussions by phone or in person. Because others did not take the initiative, the tone and wordings of the document resulted in my favour.

As the judgement shows, timely documents helped us win the case. Paperless-ness does not excuse us from writing. Even if the other party ignores us, when we an issue we cannot desist from responsible communication. This applies to professional and personal life.


About pgbhat

A retired Naval Officer and an educationist. Has experience with software industry. A guest faculty at different institutes and a corporate trainer with software development companies.
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