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Lok Sabha elections 2019: Supreme Court to hear review plea by Oppn on VVPAT matching

The 21 opposition leaders have urged the top court to reconsider its April 8 directive to the Election Commission of India to increase random matching of VVPAT slips with EVMs from one to five polling booths per assembly segment in every Lok Sabha constituency.

lok-sabha-elections Updated: May 04, 2019 00:48 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi appeared for the petitioners and asked for an urgent hearing of the review plea, which a bench led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi agreed to take up next week.
Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi appeared for the petitioners and asked for an urgent hearing of the review plea, which a bench led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi agreed to take up next week.
         

The Supreme Court agreed on Friday to hear next week a review petition filed by 21 opposition leaders seeking verification of 50% of electronic voting machines (EVMs) using Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips during the ongoing general elections.

The leaders have urged the top court to reconsider its April 8 directive to the Election Commission of India to increase random matching of VVPAT slips with EVMs from one to five polling booths per assembly segment in every Lok Sabha constituency.

Opposition leaders led by Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu have sought a review of the order, saying the “increase from 1 to 5 is not a reasonable number and does not lead to satisfaction desired by this court” after alleging that EVMs being used in the Lok Sabha elections were defective.

Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi appeared for the petitioners and asked for an urgent hearing of the review plea, which a bench led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi agreed to take up next week.

The court did not indicate whether the review petition would be heard in open court. As per SC rules, judges take up review petitions within chambers. A review petition can be heard in open court if the judges are of the opinion that it’s a matter of substantial public importance.

The plea, filed after the conclusion of third phase of polls, said: “The petitioners submit that the aforesaid increase is not sufficient and will not make any substantial difference to the situation that existed prior to the passing of the impugned order.”

“Therefore, even though the petitioners have succeeded on the merits of their contention, their success does not resolve their grievance or cause any meaningful change to the situation that they were originally aggrieved of,” read the review petition, opposing Election Commission’s stand that it was not viable to increase the number of random matching of VVPAT slips for lack of sufficient staff.

The increase ordered by the court would not achieve the purpose of raising “public confidence” in the integrity of the electoral process, the petitioners have said.

“It is submitted that once this court agrees that the number of EVMs that should be subjected to VVPAT verification should be increased to a ‘reasonable number’, not increasing the same to a number which is ‘reasonable’ because it may not be ‘viable’ to do so renders the entire exercise otiose and futile,” said the plea.

The petition claims that after the first phase of polling, in many cases, EVMs were found to be defective and faulty. “It has been reported that in some cases where voters would vote for one party, EVMs would record their vote having been cast for another party,” says the review petition. The Election Commission of India (EC) has consistently maintained that the glitches experienced by EVMs are within acceptable limits in terms of number of defects.

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.

First Published: May 04, 2019 00:48 IST

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