SC tells EC to increase random sampling of EVMs using VVPAT2 min read . Updated: 09 Apr 2019, 12:39 AM IST
- Increase in the number of checks will satisfy political parties and boost voter confidence, says apex court
- The move is likely to make the counting process more transparent, boost voter confidence
Just days before the first phase of voting for the Lok Sabha elections, the Supreme Court on Monday ordered the Election Commission of India (EC) to increase the use of voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) slips from one electronic voting machine (EVM) to five randomly selected EVMs in every assembly constituency/segment.
The move comes amid a long-standing demand from opposition parties to increase the VVPAT count. It is also likely to make the counting process more transparent and boost voter confidence.
The increase in the number of checks will not only bring greater satisfaction to political parties, but also create a great degree of satisfaction in the minds of the Indian electorate, said the bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjeev Khanna.
The EC had decided to randomly select one EVM for every assembly constituency for VVPAT verification, but the opposition had demanded that it should be increased to 50% of all EVMs. The apex court decided to cap the VVPAT usage count at five EVMs per constituency.
“EC shall make all out efforts to operationalize and implement the directions of the Hon’ble SC with immediate effect," the EC said in its response to the apex court’s order.
On Monday, representatives of the EC apprised the court of the verification process. The poll panel informed the apex court that verification by VVPAT is done by a team of three counting officers, who are supervised by a returning officer and a general observer. The counting is done sequentially. “Each round takes approximately 30 to 60 minutes," the EC told the court.
On the demand of 50% tallying by opposition parties, the EC had said that the increase in the number of checks at the polling stations would require more general observers and returning officers, and this would require appointments of additional senior civil servants. The EC had clarified that if a polling station had more than one EVM, all of them would be checked.
The court said the integrity of the EVM is of prime importance and if the people are not satisfied, the voting would become a futile exercise.
The apex court said that verification of five EVMs would ensure fool-proof results in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. The physical verification process would “ensure greatest degree of accuracy and satisfaction in election process", it said.
The court said that though it is less than the 50% verification demand by 21 political parties, it understands the infrastructural and logistical difficulties of the poll panel.
The top court observed that the increase in use of VVPAT paper trails from one EVM to five will not require further manpower, nor will it delay the process of counting votes. The delay, it said, will be by only five hours and, therefore, the date of the poll announcement will be the same.
The bench, however, made it very clear that it was not doubting the accuracy of election results or the role of the election commission, which is a constitutional body.
Congress’ chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said later in the day that the party was not satisfied with the Supreme Court’s order and will seek a review. “No, we are not satisfied with the counting of only five VVPATs...I think, the Supreme Court should re-examine its decision," he said.