Tuesday, April 23, 2024
HomeNationImportant First Step: Congress After SC Seeks ECI Response On VVPAT Slips

Important First Step: Congress After SC Seeks ECI Response On VVPAT Slips


New Delhi: The Congress party has welcomed the Supreme Court’s move to issue notice to the Election Commission of India (ECI) and Centre on a petition seeking the counting of all Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) paper slips in elections. Commending the Supreme Court’s notice to the poll panel as an ‘important first step’, Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh stressed the need for a decision on the matter before the Lok Sabha elections begin. “It bears constant repetition that the Election Commission has refused to meet a delegation of INDIA party leaders who have been demanding 100% VVPATs in order to increase public confidence in EVMs and to ensure the integrity of the electoral process. The notice is an important first step, but for it to be meaningful, the matter should be decided before the elections commence,” Jairam Ramesh said in a post on X.

 

 

The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice to the ECI and Centre on a petition seeking the counting of all Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) paper slips in elections, instead of the verification of only 5 randomly selected (Electronic Voting Machines) EVMs in each assembly segment of a parliamentary constituency.

A bench of Justices BR Gavai and Sandeep Mehta tagged the petition with another plea filed by the Association for Democratic Reforms seeking similar reliefs. The petition filed by lawyer and activist Arun Kumar Agrawal further challenged ECI’s guideline that mandates that VVPAT verification shall be done sequentially, i.e. one after the other, causing undue delay.

The petition contended, “If simultaneous verification is done and more number of officers are deployed for counting in each assembly constituency, then complete VVPAT verification can be done in matter of 5-6 hours.”

The petition filed through advocate Neha Rathi further stated that while the government has spent around Rs 5000 crores on the purchase of nearly 24 lakh VVPATs, presently VVPAT slips of only approximately 20,000 VVPATs are verified.

“Given that many questions are being raised by experts with regard to VVPATs and EVMs and the fact that large number of discrepancies between EVM and VVPAT vote count have been reported in the past, it is imperative that all VVPATs slips are counted and the voter is given an opportunity to properly verify that his vote as cast in the ballot is also counted by allowing him to physically drop his/her VVPAT slip on the ballot box,” the plea added.

It sought direction that the ECI mandatorily cross-verify the count in EVMs with votes that have been verifiably ‘recorded as cast’ by the voter through the VVPATs by counting all VVPAT paper slips.

ECI to allow the voter to physically drop VVPAT slip as generated by the VVPAT in a ballot box to ensure that the voter’s ballot has been ‘counted as recorded’,” it demanded. 

“It bears constant repetition that the Election Commission has refused to meet a delegation of INDIA party leaders who have been demanding 100% VVPATs in order to increase public confidence in EVMs and to ensure the integrity of the electoral process. The notice is an important first step, but for it to be meaningful, the matter should be decided before the elections commence,” Jairam Ramesh said in a post on X.

The Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) is an independent system used for verifying votes in elections. It allows voters to confirm if their vote was recorded accurately by generating a paper slip that shows their selected candidate’s name. This paper slip is kept securely sealed and can be used for verification in case of any disputes.

On April 2019, the Supreme Court had directed the Election Commission to increase the number of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) undergoing VVPAT physical verification from one to five per assembly segment in a parliamentary constituency.

The plea argued that if simultaneous verification is conducted and more officers are deployed for counting in each assembly constituency, complete VVPAT verification could be completed within five to six hours.

The government has spent nearly Rs 5,000 crore on purchase of nearly 24 lakh VVPATs but presently, VVPAT slips of only approximately 20,000 VVPATs are verified, the plea stated.

Given the concerns raised by experts regarding VVPATs and EVMs, and the numerous discrepancies between EVM and VVPAT vote counts reported in the past, the plea emphasises the importance of counting all VVPAT slips. It suggests that voters should have the opportunity to physically verify that their votes were accurately recorded by allowing them to drop their VVPAT slips into the ballot box.





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