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Supreme Court notice on plea to tally every EVM vote with VVPAT slips

By Shreya Agarwal      02 April, 2024 06:08 PM      0 Comments

NEW DELHI: Ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha assembly elections, the Supreme Court has issued notice to the Election Commission of India (ECI) on a plea for tallying of each and every Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) vote with Voter-Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips and for thorough counting of the slips.

The Supreme Court was hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petition submitted in this regard calling for comprehensive VVPAT verification, simultaneous verification and increased number of personnel to speed up the process.

A bench of Justices B R Gavai and Sandeep Mehta sought a response from the poll panel and the Union government on a plea filed by lawyer and activist Arun Kumar Agrawal, a resident of Ramnagara in Karnataka, through Advocate Neha Rathi.

The plea echoes concerns regarding discrepancies between EVM and VVPAT counts which have been raised by the Opposition led by the I.N.D.I.A bloc. Inter alia, Agarwal contended that while the government has allocated Rs 5,000 crore for acquiring 24 lakh VVPAT machines, yet only 20,000 VVPAT slips are actually verified.

The petition further challenged the EC's guideline which mandated that VVPAT verification shall be done sequentially, i.e. one after the other, causing undue delay.

It contended that 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 a matter of 5-6 hours only.

The ECI can easily deploy 150 officers in teams of 3 to count paper slips from 50 VVPAT simultaneously and complete the counting in 5 hours as opposed to sequential (one by one) counting of each VVPAT which, as per ECI’s own submissions, would take 250 hours i.e. almost 11-12 days, it said.

It also asked the Court to issue a direction to make the glass of the VVPAT machine transparent and duration of the light long enough for the voter to see the paper recording his vote cut and drop into the drop box.

VVPATs provide voters with a paper trail to verify their vote alongside EVMs.

Currently, VVPAT verification is done only with respect to votes recorded in 5 randomly selected Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in each assembly segment, as per the Supreme Court's order in 2019.

It is pertinent to note that while the petitioner pointed out concerns raised by experts regarding both VVPATs and EVMs, specifically regarding the claimed 'significant number of discrepancies between the vote counts of EVMs and VVPATs documented in the past', mandatory physical verification of VVPAT slips was conducted on the Supreme Court's orders for the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections also.

Back then, only 8 cases of mismatch were recorded across 20,687 polling stations back then. The mismatches were reported from Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya and Andhra Pradesh.

In 2019, the mismatch was estimated at .0004% and the same had had no impact on the final election results in the 8 cases of mismatch.

Legally, as per Rule 56(D)(f)(b) of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, in case of a discrepancy between the EVM and VVPAT counts, the latter prevails.



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