The Kerala State Information Commission has directed the Chief Electoral Officer of Kerala to provide video footage of polling booths recorded during 2019 General Elections within 20 days free of cost to an applicant under the Right to Information Act(RTI).
The order was filed in an appeal filed by RTI activist Advocate D B Binu against the refusal of Public Information Officer of the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer of Kerala (CEO) to furnish the information regarding CCTV/Webcasting of polls.
The Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of Kerala denied information citing a letter from the Election Commission of India which said that only officers related to election machinery can access webcasting/CCTV footage of polling booths keeping with the spirit of Rule 93(1) of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961. This rule actually deals with production and inspection of election papers. It specifies that used ballot papers, counterfoils, sealed control units of EVMs etc., should not be opened or allowed to be inspected by any person or authority except under orders of a competent court. This a clause aimed at maintaining the secrecy of balloting. There is no reference to Webcasting or video footage in this clause.
Allowing the appeal of D B Binu, the State Chief Information Commissioner, Vinson M Paul, said that the contention of the CEO Kerala that it was awaiting clarification from the Election Commission of India was not tenable under the RTI Act. Information sought tinder the Act can be denied only under Section 8 or 9 of the Act.
Similarly, the argument that the CEO did not maintain details of polling booths which recorded more than 90% polling was held to be invalid by observing that "the Respondent office is the repository of all such information".
Click here to download order