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Everything cannot be suspected; sanctity of the electoral process to be maintained: SC

By Jhanak Singh      19 April, 2024 12:33 PM      0 Comments
Everything cannot be suspected sanctity of the electoral process to be maintained SC

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday reserved order on a plea for raising VVPAT counts to 100 % while observing that everything about the EVMs cannot be suspected and sanctity of the electoral process must be maintained.

A bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta concluded the hearing in a batch of PILs filed by NGO Association for Democratic Reforms and others, after hearing Deputy Election Commissioner, senior advocate Maninder Singh for the poll body and a battery of counsel advocate Prashant Bhushan, senior advocates Gopal Sankaranarayanan, Sanjay Hegde, Santosh Paul and others.

Also Read - 'We all know what happened when there were ballot papers,' SC on return of ballot papers or 100% VVPATs count

Before wrapping up the proceedings, the bench told the petitioners, “Everything cannot be suspected. We have heard them (EC), please appreciate if they have done something good. Every time you do not have to be critical about everything. We heard you at length, as were also concerned, if something has to be improved upon, is everything has to be explained to you or to anybody else. As long as they are doing it within four corners of the law, that is fine.”

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, as officer of the court, cited harm to democracy caused by such kinds of PILs and asked the court to impose cost on them.

"This happens periodically on the eve of elections. It has an impact on voter turnout, and harms democracy. They are making choice of voter into a joke. I have told everyone on my side that be ready for some planted article/news article for tomorrow," he said.

During the hearing, the court asked the Election Commission to allay any apprehension with regard to electoral process and functioning of EVMs and VVPATs.

The court sought to know the whole process of voting and counting through EVMs, while hearing a plea for raising VVPATs counts to 100 %.

"What we wanted either you or some officer should allay all apprehensions of those inside the court room or those outside...it is an electoral process, there has to be some sanctity. Let nobody have any apprehension that something which is not expected is being done," the bench said.

"You tell us the whole process how candidates representatives are involved and how tampering is prevented," the bench asked Nitesh Vyas, Deputy EC.

The court also sought to know if there has been no mismatch between VVPATs and EVMs.

"What are the harms if a voter is handed over a slip that he has cast his vote," the bench asked.

The officer said it may affect secrecy of votes and may also result in deliberate mischief.

Initially, the court asked senior advocate Singh, appearing for the Election Commission to cross check an allegation that the BJP candidate got extra votes during the mock polls in Kasargod district of Kerala.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for NGO Association for Democratic Reforms, referred to a news report that four EVMs and VVPATs recorded one extra vote for BJP during the mock poll.

The court asked Singh to cross check the matter.

In the post lunch session, the EC official claimed the news report was examined and it was found to be false.

After hearing the official, the bench said, "There seems to be some disconnect between what you are telling us and what is available in public domain, that needs to be bridged as voters trust and integrity of entire mechanism is to be maintained."

The officer explained the process of voting and casting of votes through EVMs which comprised of control unit, ballot unit and VVPATs.

The plea sought complete count of VVPAT slips in elections as opposed to the current practice of verification of only five randomly selected EVMs through VVPAT paper slips.

The first phase of voting on 102 constituencies across 21 states and Union territories for Lok Sabha 2024 polls is scheduled to start on April 19.



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