Cross-check more votes on VVPATs, Supreme Court tells Election Commission
The Supreme Court on Monday told the Election Commission to file an affidavit listing its stand on increasing the proportion of EVM votes to be verified with paper trail. But the judges also indicated that they felt the Election Commission should increase the percentage of votes randomly verified against the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT).
“We would like you to increase,” observed a bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi that is hearing a petition by leaders of 21 political parties that want at least 50% of votes cast with voting machines to be matched and cross-checked with VVPATs slips.
The Supreme Court also nudged the election body to be open to suggestions. The bench said no institution including the judiciary should insulate itself from suggestions or improvements.
At present, the Election Commission matches the VVPAT slips for only one polling booth in each constituency.
The 2019 Lok Sabha election would be the first where all voting machines would be attached with VVPAT machines but the poll body has not specified yet how many of these would be counted. It had engaged the Kolkata-headquartered Indian Statistical Institute for its recommendation.
VVPAT machines, attached to EVMs, display the name of the candidate and his/her symbol on a piece of paper after a vote is cast. The voter can see the paper through a glass display for seven seconds before it drops into a sealed container. While announcing the schedule of this summer’s general elections, the EC announced that VVPATs will be used in all polling stations along with EVMs.
The Election Commission had earlier rejected demands that 30 per cent of the VVPAT slips should be counted. It had then argued that counting paper slips for a third of the country’s 87 lakh electors would be a logistical nightmare.
Many opposition parties claim that EVMs are susceptible to tampering and initially wanted that the government go back to use of paper ballots. After the Election Commission ruled it out, opposition parties demanded that at least 50 per cent votes be verified.
In a 2013 judgment, the Supreme Court had held that VVPAT was an indispensable requirement of free and fair elections. This judgment, argue the petitioners, made the VVPAT system inherent and intrinsic to the very basic structure of the Constitution.
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