Supreme Court Notice to Election Commission on VVPAT Counting

Mainstream
02-Apr-2024
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In a pivotal development, the Supreme Court issued a notice to the Election Commission of India (ECI) concerning a plea advocating for a comprehensive count of Voter-Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips during elections. 

The current practice involves the verification of VVPAT slips from only five randomly selected Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) per assembly segment. However, the petitioner asserts that each vote cast through an EVM should be cross-checked against its corresponding VVPAT slip.

Additionally, the plea seeks permission for voters to physically deposit their VVPAT slips into a ballot box to ensure transparency and accuracy in the counting process. Advocate Arun Kumar Agrawal, the petitioner, has challenged the ECI's guideline mandating sequential VVPAT verification, which, according to the plea, leads to unnecessary delays. Agrawal argued that simultaneous verification and the deployment of additional officers could expedite the process without compromising accuracy.

"The petitioner is further seeking to quash and set aside Guideline No. 14.7(h) of the Manual on Electronic Voting Machine and VVPAT dated August, 2023 as framed and issued by Election Commission of India in so far as it allows only sequential verification of VVPAT slips resulting in undue delay in counting of all VVPAT slips," the plea stated.

Moreover, Agrawal highlighted the significant expenditure incurred by the government on VVPATs and emphasized the importance of verifying all VVPAT slips, given past discrepancies between EVM and VVPAT counts. The demand for increased scrutiny of VVPATs is not new. In the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, several opposition parties urged the Supreme Court to mandate VVPAT verification for at least 50% of all EVMs. Although the court raised the number of randomly selected EVMs to five per assembly segment, concerns persisted.

In July last year, the Supreme Court remarked on the skepticism surrounding election processes, particularly in response to a plea by the Association for Democratic Reforms regarding VVPAT verification. As the petition awaits further consideration by the apex court, the issue of ensuring transparency and integrity in the electoral process remains a subject of intense debate and legal scrutiny.

Author: Anushka Taraniya

News Writer, MIT ADT University