The Supreme Court on Monday granted time to 21 political parties time till April 8 to respond to the stand of Election Commission of India that verification of 50% of Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trails (VVPAT) in all constituencies will delay counting.
The Election Commission (EC) has filed counter-affidavit in the matter pointing out logistical difficulties in carrying out 50% verification of VVPAT. This will delay the announcement of results by at least six days, said the EC.
"It is therefore submitted 50% VVPAT slip verification in each assembly segment of a Parliamentary Constituency or Assembly Constituency on an average shall enlarge the time required for counting to about 6 days. It is also relevant to mention that in many Assembly Constituencies, there are more than 400 polling stations, which will require about 8-9 days to complete the VVPAT slip count.", stated the affidavit filed by the poll panel.
This has come in response to a PIL filed by leaders of 21 opposition political parties, demanding counting and cross verification VVPAT in at least 50% (randomly chosen) of all polling stations within each Assembly Segment/ Constituency.
The petition also challenges the decision of ECI to verify VVPAT of only one randomly selected booth of a constituency. The petitioners say that this will account only for 0.44% of the votes polled. This guideline defeats the entire purpose of VVPAT and makes the same "ornamental" without actual substance, they state.
Last week, the bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had required the Commission to reply whether it is possible to increase the VVPAT sample survey in every assembly segment. The Commission has explained that the VVPAT slip is displayed to the voter through a transparent window in the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) for about seven seconds after the casting of vote. Therefore, the voter can verify his vote then and there itself. The necessity of counting the printed paper slips would only arise if there is any discrepancy between the results as shown by the EVM and as reflected on the printed paper slip, submitted the ECI.
The poll panel has also submitted that no foul play was detected while using VVPAT during 2017 Assembly elections.
VVPAT is a paper slip generated by the EM every time a voter casts his/her vote, recording the party to whom the vote was made. This is kept in a sealed cover to be opened only in case of a future dispute.
The EC had informed the Court in 2017 that VVPAT will be used 100% in future elections. However, the decision taken by the EC in July 2018 was to verify VVPAT of a randomly selected polling station from a constituency.
The petitioners are: N Chandrababu Naidu (TDP), Sharad Pawar (NCP), K C Venugopal (INC), Derek O Brien (TMC), Sharad Yadav (LTJD), Akhilesh Yadav (SP), Satish Chandra Mishra (BSP), M K Stalin (DMK), T K Ranga Rajan (CPI(M)), S Sudhakar Reddu (CPI), Manoj Kumar Jha (RJD), Arvind Kejriwal (AAP), Farookh Abdullah (NC) K Danish Ali (RJD),Ajith Singh (RLD), M Badrudding Ajmal (AIUDF), Jithin Ram Manji (Hindusthani Awam Morcha), Ashok Kumar Singh (JVM), Khorrum Anis Omar (IUML) Prof.Kodanadram (Telengana Jana Samithi), and K G Kenye (Naga Peoples Front).