Verify 5 VVPATs per constituency, not 1: SC

Verify 5 VVPATs per constituency, not 1: SC

The Supreme Court on Monday directed the Election Commission to increase VVPAT verification from the present system of one EVM to five EVMs in one Assembly Constituency or Assembly segment in each Parliamentary seat in the general elections 2019.

"We are of the considered view that this would generate the greatest degree of satisfaction and full accuracy," the top court said.

After hearing senior advocates Kapil Sibal and A M Singhvi, appearing for 21 opposition parties led by N Chandrababu Naidu and others and the Election Commission official and the counsel, a bench presided over by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said if the number of EVM in respect to physical verification was increased from one to five, it would neither required additional manpower nor would delay the poll results.

The petitioners contended that the 21 opposition parties represented 70 to 75% of the population.

They said the orders have been issued in 2013 and 2017 for ensuring purity of the process. The use of VVPAT should not remain merely ornamental and illusory if there is a possibility of checking it up to have 100%.

Senior advocate C A Sundaram, appearing for the EC said, "The more you increase the manual count of VVPAT, the more would be chances of error."

"Our job is to ensure free and fair elections. No complaint as yet has been made, some perception is sought to be created," he said.

Also representing the EC, senior advocate Arvind Datar reiterated that there has been no error in the present system.

Deputy Chief Election Commissioner Sudeep Jain said a team of three persons are used as counting officers with oversight of supervisor and returning officer.

"If the court passed an order enhancing it, can it be done," the bench, also comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna, asked the official.

Sibal, for his part, questioned the report given Indian Statistical Institute that verification of 479 EVMs would ensure 99.99% satisfaction.

The EC, on the other hand, said the present system of one EVM in each Assembly constituency or segment meant 4125 randomly selected machines which was eight times higher than the expert's report of the ISI.

The Election Commission has earlier opposed the plea by 21 opposition parties for raising VVPAT verification from one EVM in one Assembly segment to 50 % of polling booths, saying it would take six days to complete the counting of votes.

The petition filed by several opposition leaders, including Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, Sharad Pawar, K C Venugopal, Derek O Brain, Sharad Yadav, Akhilesh Yadav, Satish Chandra Mishra, M K Stalin, T K Rangrajan, Manoj K Jha, Farooq Abdullah, S S Reddy, Danish Ali, Ajit Singh, Mohd Badruddin Ajmal, Jitin Ram Majhi, and others.

Voter-verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) machines are used in all polling stations but results of EVMs and VVPATs are matched in one polling station per constituency.