Lok Sabha Election

Election Commission rejects Opposition parties’ demand on VVPAT verification

A policeman stands guard outside a counting hall, ahead of the counting process for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, at Akshardham in New Delhi, Wednesday, May 22, 2019.   | Photo Credit: PTI

A day ahead of the counting of votes in the 2019 Lok Sabha poll, the Election Commission (EC) rejected the demand of Opposition parties for tallying of the Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips in five polling booths in each Assembly segment with the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), prior to the vote count.

In a statement on Wednesday, the EC said the VVPAT counting sequence would remain as per the Supreme Court-approved guidelines.

A delegation of 22 Opposition parties had met the full Election Commission on Tuesday. Among other things, they requested the EC to count the VVPAT slips before the start of counting of votes polled in EVMs.

‘In-depth’ discussions

Subsequently, the EC deliberated on the issue with senior officials concerned, and after two rounds of “in-depth” discussions, it arrived at the decision.

“It has neither been found possible nor feasible to accede to this demand in the overall context and especially in view of the judgment of the Supreme Court in writ petition (C) No.273 of 2019 delivered on April 8,” it said.

According to the EC, the judgment directs that the random selection of VVPATs be subjected to the process of slip verification as per the guidelines 16.6 of the EVM manual in force.

Procedural issues

“There were some other procedural issues like allowing counting agents of candidates along with all Returning Officers and Assistant Returning Officers, on which necessary instructions have already been reiterated and, wherever required, made more candidate-friendly,” the EC said.

The EC assured the political parties of strict adherence to the set procedures for the entire counting process, especially the security of the strong rooms and the counting centres.

The parties had also demanded that in case of any discrepancy in the EVM-VVPAT verification, 100% counting of the slips at all polling booths be done in that particular segment.

According to sources, during the meeting on Tuesday, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora had cited the Supreme Court order and also told the Opposition leaders that a discussion on the issue was a waste of time, which triggered sharp reactions from them.

During the elections, there were a series of controversies surrounding the Election Commission’s decisions.

Its alleged delay in deciding the Model Code of Conduct violation allegations against several speeches of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah led the Congress to approach the Supreme Court.

It was after the Supreme Court set a deadline of May 6 that the complaints were disposed of. Mr. Modi was not found to have violated the Code in all the matters, but Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa gave dissenting opinions in some cases.

It triggered another round of controversy, as Mr. Lavasa objected to his views not being incorporated in the final orders. He recused himself from MCC proceedings.

On Tuesday, the full Commission took up the issue raised by Mr. Lavasa and, by a majority of 2:1, decided that minority views would only be recorded in internal files. They will not be made part of the final orders, as per previous practice.

It is learnt that Mr. Lavasa then decided that he would continue to skip MCC meetings. As a result, several matters still remain pending.


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Printable version | Jul 23, 2021 9:42:53 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/lok-sabha-2019/election-commission-rejects-opposition-parties-demand-on-vvpat-verification/article27205381.ece

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