Atul Mathur, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, November 28, 2014

The Delhi electoral office, in the run-up to the assembly elections, has stumbled upon a large number of possible bogus voters in the Capital. The electoral rolls of various assembly constituencies show a number of registered voters with different names, fathers’ names and residential addresses but have one thing in common — the photo of the voter.

Sources say that the discovery points to a huge racket of bogus voters — several voter identity cards made in different names quoting different residential addresses but carrying the same photo. Chief electoral officer Vijay Dev said he was looking into the issue. He said the poll office was verifying if the voters were fake or if it was a case of erroneous pasting of photographs.

“There are two possibilities. One, the data entry operator pasted wrong photographs or two , there is indeed a large number of bogus voters. In the ongoing summary revision of electoral rolls, we are focussing on such cases. We will know the real situation by December-end,” Dev said.

The Delhi electoral office had cleaned up the electoral rolls by deleting the names of almost 14 lakh voters who had either shifted their residence or shifted to other states or had died.

But officials admitted that the case this time was different.

According to an estimate, each of the 70 assembly constituencies of the Capital has 1,500-5,000 such entries on its electoral rolls. Places such as Rithala, Mundka, Uttam Nagar, Janakpuri and Vikaspuri have a large concentration of such ‘fake’ voters.

Sources pointed out that the photograph of the same person had been pasted with different names and addresses 15-30 times on the electoral rolls. In a particular case, the photograph of a man, who seems to be in mid-30s, was found on 98 voter cards.

Interestingly, a source said, such bogus voters followed a pattern. The photos of such bogus voters are found only in one assembly constituency area albeit on different electoral booths.

“Simply put, if a person is using these voter cards to cast his franchise, he will not have to cast more than one vote at a particular polling booth and hence can avoid suspicion. Also, since all the voting booths are in the limits of one assembly constituency, the bogus voter does not have to travel long distances to cast more votes,” the source said.

Sources said most of these voters are old and the possibility of fake polling by such bogus voters in the last assembly and Lok Sabha elections cannot be dismissed.

Erroneous pasting of the same photograph with the details of 1-2 voters can be understood. But if it is an error at such a large scale, then it indicates there is something amiss somewhere, an official said.

Officials confirmed that if the voters actually turn out to be fake, then the repercussions can be huge. “If a man has 10-15 voter identity cards under different names and addresses, he can virtually get 10-15 passports and can misuse them,” an official said.

Dev said the electoral office had outsourced the job of preparing electoral rolls and electoral photo identity cards to two IT companies selected by the Delhi government. The data entry operators of the said companies manually entered the details of each voter in the electoral roll under the strict supervision of the electoral registration officer (ERO) and assistant electoral registration officers (AERO) — all Delhi government employees.

“Each ERO and AERO has been given a user name and password to log into the electoral roll while making new entries or making corrections in them. We  are scrutinising the user IDs and IP addresses of the computers of each ERO and AERO to get to the bottom of the issue,” Dev said. He said if there was a clerical error on the part of the IT company and wrong photos had been pasted, the company can be served a notice and the data entry operators can be sacked.

Administrative action against the ERO and AERO can also be taken. However, if fake voter cards have been made, the electoral office will register criminal cases against the officials involved as well as the companies. “The person who has bogus voter cards can be jailed for six months, while the officials can be imprisoned for up to three years,” Dev said.