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Lamination destroys legality of an identity card: Kerala HC

It is hard to notice the thickness, seal, embossment or any other identification marks used to check the authenticity of identity card if the same is laminated to make it glossy and water proof. The lamination destroys the legality of an identity card for all intents and purposes since it becomes difficult to compare the signature therein with that in the Register.

R.G.Harilal Vs Joint Registrar of Co-Operative Societies (General) (Kerala High Court)

It is hard to notice the thickness, seal, embossment or any other identification marks used to check the authenticity of identity card if the same is laminated to make it glossy and water proof. The lamination destroys the legality of an identity card for all intents and purposes since it becomes difficult to compare the signature therein with that in the Register. A plastic laminate gets adhered to the identity card for ever altering its physical make up by the process of lamination which destroys its authenticity. Laminated title deeds are not accepted by banks and other financial institutions to sanction a mortgage loan and foreign universities seldom accept laminated certificates. De-laminating machines have come up in the market to strip a document of lamination and the process has turned out to be more costly than the lamination. An identity card cannot be laminated so long as Rule 16A or any other provision do not permit so even though it might be handy, water proof or even tamper proof as is alleged.

FULL TEXT OF THE HIGH COURT ORDER / JUDGMENT

“Why not modernise the voter’s identity card by lamination and bar code” muses Mr.George Poonthottam, Advocate for the appellant. “It cannot be so done in the absence of statutory sanction” quips Mr.P.C.Sasidharan, Advocate for the respondents. “Improvisation sans legislation cannot be countenanced” emphasises Mr.K.S.Mohamad Hashim, Special Government Pleader. The issue arises under the Kerala Co-operative Societies Act, 1969 (‘the Act’ ) and the Kerala Co-operative Societies Rules, 1969 (‘the Rules).

2. The members of the Police Co-operative Society Limited [‘the Society’ for short] complained to the Joint Registrar (General) of Co-operative Societies about the legality of the identity cards issued. The Joint Registrar thereupon called for a report from the Assistant Registrar (General) who after inspection found that the allegation in the complaint is well-founded. The Administrative Committee of the Society was accordingly directed by the Joint Registrar to issue fresh identity cards conforming to the statutory prescriptions. The appellant who is the Convener of the Administrative Committee objected to this course and the Assistant Registrar again reported about the non-compliance. It was under these circumstances did the Joint Registrar issue Ext.P6 order directing the cancellation of the existing identity cards and issue anew as per law. The challenge to Ext.P6 order was however not entertained by the learned single Judge and hence this writ appeal contending that laminated identity cards with bar codes are valid.

3. The identity card is conclusive evidence to prove that the holder has membership in the Society and the same has to be produced along with any other document mentioned in Rule 35A(6)(ix) of the Rules. Otherwise the member of the Society would not be issued a ballot paper to enable him to exercise his right of vote particularly when his identity is disputed. The manner of issuing an identity card to a member of the Society is described in detail under Rule 16A of the Rules which is extracted hereunder for reference:

“16A. Identity card:- (1) A person admitted as a member of a Society shall be issued with an identity card, in Form 6A, which shall be conclusive evidence to prove his membership in the Society. The member shall furnish two copies of his recent photograph of passport size to the Society. Copies of the photograph shall be attested by the Chief Executive of the Society or an officer specially empowered in this behalf by the Committee of the Society and one copy of the duly attested photograph shall be affixed in the identity card and the other copy shall be affixed in the Register in Form 6B maintained for the purpose. The identity card shall also bear the seal of the Society.

(2) An existing member shall, within one month from the date of commencement of these rules, furnish to the society concerned two copies of his recent photograph of passport size and the Society shall issue identity card to him within a period of fifteen days from the date of receipt of the photograph:

Provided that the Registrar may, in deserving cases, for reasons to be recorded in writing, extend the above period of one month and fifteen days for a further period upto one month or fifteen days, as the case may be.

(3) The identity card shall be issued direct to the member concerned after obtaining his acknowledgment in the Register in Form 6B and shall not be supplied to any other person on his behalf.”

The member is required to furnish two copies of his recent photograph of passport size to the Society which shall be attested by the Chief Executive of the Society or an officer specially empowered. One copy of the duly attested photograph shall be affixed in the identity card and the other copy shall be affixed in the Register in Form No.6B maintained. The identity card shall be issued direct to the member after obtaining his acknowledgment in the Register in Form No.6B within fifteen days from the date of receipt of the photograph.

4. The identity card issued in Form No.6A under Rule 16A(3) of the Rules shall contain the following particulars in order to ensure that there is no impersonation of a member at the time of voting:

i. Name and address of the Society

ii. Member number

iii. Name and residential address of the member

iv. Father!s/Husband!s name

v. Date of birth of the member

vi. Date of admission as member in the Society

vii. Photograph of the member

(Photo to be attested by the authorised officer of the society under seal as per rules)

viii. Signature/Thumb impression of the member

ix. Date of issue.

Almost all the above particulars have also to be incorporated in the Register of Members maintained in Form No.6B by the Society to facilitate comparison with the identity card in case of need.

5. It is hard to notice the thickness, seal, embossment or any other identification marks used to check the authenticity of identity card if the same is laminated to make it glossy and water proof. The lamination destroys the legality of an identity card for all intents and purposes since it becomes difficult to compare the signature therein with that in the Register. A plastic laminate gets adhered to the identity card for ever altering its physical make up by the process of lamination which destroys its authenticity. Laminated title deeds are not accepted by banks and other financial institutions to sanction a mortgage loan and foreign universities seldom accept laminated certificates. De-laminating machines have come up in the market to strip a document of lamination and the process has turned out to be more costly than the lamination. An identity card cannot be laminated so long as Rule 16A or any other provision do not permit so even though it might be handy, water proof or even tamper proof as is alleged.

6. The particulars to be contained in an identity card as prescribed in Form No.6A cannot be replaced by a bar code which can be detected only by a bar code scanner that might not be available. The particulars are required for the purpose of easy comparison with the Register maintained in Form No.6B by the Society whenever a dispute arises as regards identity. One would expect the Legislature to permit bar codes in the identity card to keep pace with the technological advance though law as on today does not enable so. Moreover bar codes will serve no purpose unless there are sufficient number of bar code scanners and techno savvy Polling Officers or Returning Officers as the case may be.

7. The voters were awe struck when Electronic Voting Machines were used for the first time in India in the year 1982 for the by-election of North Paravur Assembly Constituency in Kerala. But the election was set aside and re-polling directed in all the polling booths where the Electronic Voting Machines were used in A.C.Jose v. Sivan Pillai [(1984) 2 SCC 656]. The reason was that the law as it then stood did not empower the Election Commission to use the Electronic Voting Machines in lieu of ballot papers which were in vogue. This led to the introduction of Section 61A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 enabling the use of Electronic Voting Machines to give and record votes in election. The Act and the Rules framed thereunder as it now stand do not permit voting in an election by the members of a Society with laminated identity card and bar code. The Joint Registrar was well within his powers under Section 66A of the Act to direct the Society to recall the laminated cards with bar codes and issue fresh identity cards. The election would be vulnerable to challenge if laminated cards with bar code are used and the interference of the Joint Registrar by issuing Ext.P6 order was timely. The refusal of the learned single Judge to interfere with Ext.P6 order in the circumstances cannot be said to be faulty and hence we confirm the impugned judgment.

The writ appeal fails. Dismissed.

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