Plea in SC to verify minimum 30% EVM votes with VVPATs

Plea in SC to verify minimum 30% EVM votes with VVPATs

The Supreme Court on Monday sought a response from the Election Commission on a plea for mandatorily verifying at least 30 % of votes cast in Electronic Voting Machines through the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail in every poll starting from general elections 2019.

A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul issued a notice to the poll panel on a petition filed by Tamil Nadu-resident, M G Devasahayam and two others.

The petitioner, represented by advocate Prasanna S, contended that the Election Commission's decision to confine the cross-verification and tallying of VVPAT slips to a mere one EVM per constituency across the length and breadth of the country was unconstitutional.

“It is necessary for an advanced democracy like India to adopt a process that has integrity and inspires confidence, independent of technological safeguards and a process that acknowledges and accounts for asymmetries in information and opacity of electronic voting and makes meaningful use of VVPATs,” the petition stated.

Maintaining that the petitioners were not challenging validity of elections held so far in the country, they said a reasonable sampling size for cross-verifying EVM counts with VVPATs is crucial to give effect to the directions given by the apex court on October 8, 2013, in the Subramanian Swamy case and to protect the sanctity of the election process. The court had then said the paper trail was an indispensable requirement of free and fair elections.

“With an intent to have the fullest transparency in the system and to restore the confidence of the voters, it is necessary to set up EVMs with Vvpat system because the vote is nothing but an act of expression which has immense importance in a democratic system," the court had said.

The petitioners cited examples of several countries including Germany, Canada, Finland, Ireland, The Netherlands, Kazakhstan and Romania, which had used the electronic voting system and have rejected the same with good reason.

The petitioners also sought a direction to the Election Commission to make it mandatory for the Returning Officer to order the hand-counting of all the VVPAT slips of all the polling stations where the margin of victory is very narrow and is less than 3%.

“An accurate recording and counting of the democratic will of the electorate, to the satisfaction of the electorate, is indispensable to the democratic process. The exercise of the right to vote must take place in a manner that is in consonance with the highest principles of integrity and fairness as enshrined in the Constitution,” they said.