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Court to hear review plea on VVPATs next week

A review plea was filed by 21 Opposition leaders seeking further increase in random matching of VVPAT slips with EVMs

May 03, 2019 12:23 pm | Updated 10:47 pm IST - New Delhi

VVPAT. File

VVPAT. File

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear next week a petition filed by 21 Opposition parties, led by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and Telugu Desam Party leader N. Chandrababu Naidu, to review its judgment rejecting 50% random physical verification of electronic voting machines using the voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT).

The review petition was filed three weeks ago after the Supreme Court, on April 8, directed the Election Commission of India to increase physical counting of VVPAT slips to five random electronic voting machines (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 had said in its April verdict.

The Supreme Court’s decision was however a far shot from what the Opposition had 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 percent.

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 Lok Sabha polls of 2019.

The earlier judgment had refused to 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, the court had explained.

The ECI has said that a 50% random physical verification of VVPATs would delay Lok Sabha poll results of 2019 by six whole days. The ECI had quoted from a March 22 report of the Indian Statistical Institute, which had said that a sample verification of 479 EVMs and VVPATs out of a total 10.35 lakh machine would lift public confidence to 99.99%.

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