SC dismisses Opposition plea to review order on VVPAT counting

SC dismisses Opposition plea to review order on VVPAT counting

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a plea of 21 Opposition parties, led by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, to review its judgmentrejecting 50% random physical verification of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) using Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT).
“How much counting do you want now?” Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi asked senior advocate A.M. Singhvi, who is representing the Opposition.
“We have asked for 50%, but we can settle for 33% or 25% verification. My Lords had agreed with our plea in principle, but increased the counting from one VVPAT to only five. My Lords had 50% was not ‘viable’ at this point of time during the Lok Sabha elections,” Mr. Singhvi submitted.
The court dismissed the review plea.
Mr. Naidu, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah, CPI parliamentarian D. Raja and AAP MP Sanjay Singh, were present in the courtroom.
The review petition was filed weeks ago after the court, on April 8, directed the Election Commission of India (ECI) to increase physical counting of VVPAT slips to five random EVMs in each Assembly segment/constituency.
Earlier, under the ECI guideline 16.6, only the VVPAT slips from one EVM in every Assembly segment/constituency was subjected to physical verification. Scrutiny of votes polled through five EVMs was quite enough to ensure that an election was “foolproof”, the court said in its April verdict.
The court’s decision was, however, a far shot from what the Opposition wanted — VVPAT verification in 50% or 125 polling booths in each constituency. The physical scrutiny of slips in five EVMs has increased the VVPAT verification percentage from 0.44% to less than two per cent.
The review plea contended that the Indian democracy could not be left to the mercy of EVM programmers. It pointed to large-scale tampering and selective malfunctioning of EVMs in the present Lok Sabha polls.
The earlier judgment had refused delve into the issue of integrity of the EVMs.
Instead, the court was more keen on the logistics of physical verification in its April 8 judgment. It had said the VVPAT verification of five EVMs, rather than in 125 polling booths, was far more “viable at this point of time” in the Lok Sabha poll season. It had added that verification of five EVMs would not be a drain on the ECI’s infrastructural resources and manpower as the Opposition’s idea would have been. Neither would counting VVPAT slips of five EVMs take any substantial amount of time, it had explained.
The ECI had said that a 50% random physical verification of VVPATs would delay the Lok Sabha poll results by six whole days. It had quoted from a March 22 report of the Indian Statistical Institute that said a sample verification of 479 EVMs and VVPATs out of a total 10.35 lakh machine would lift the public confidence to 99.9936%.