NEW DELHI : The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to review its order on paper verification of electronic voting, in a setback for 21 opposition parties that had made a last-ditch attempt for greater paper matching of electronic votes.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and comprising Justices Sanjeev Khanna and Deepak Gupta dismissed the petition within a minute of the start of the proceedings on Tuesday, declining to review its 8 April order.

Tuesday was the first day for hearing the review petition, with Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, Aam Aadmi Party MP Sanjay Singh, Communist Party of India MP D. Raja and former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah present in the court.

On 15 March, the parties moved the Supreme Court seeking increased checks to match voter verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) with votes cast via electronic voting machines (EVMs). In an order two days before the start of general elections, the SC partially granted the request, directing the Election Commission to conduct VVPAT verification on five EVMs in every assembly segment or constituency, instead of just one previously.

Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing the petitioners, said in a statement, “This (review) petition was filed to underline a grave and serious threat to the democracy of India. The opposition respects and abides by the decision of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India and, without any violation of any law, this movement was an all-India political campaign to make the electorate and the citizens of India aware of the perils and pitfalls of the current electoral process."

Singhvi submitted that though the original review petition had sought verification of 50% of voting machines, the opposition would be satisfied with an increase to 33% or even 25%.

In a statement, Naidu, leading the petitioners, said his Telugu Desam Party will continue to fight for transparency in elections. “The Election Commission should be responsible for the honest execution of Supreme Court’s previous judgement on counting 5 VVPATs in the constituency," he said, adding that if a discrepancy arises during a random check, “then the VVPATs should be counted in the entire constituency."

“If elections are transparent, it is good for democracy and people. It is not correct that the EC keeps stating that counting of VVPATs will delay the results by at least 5 days. Earlier, paper ballot was counted in 24 hours. When having to choose between credibility and transparency over just a matter of a few days, it is important for the EC to choose credibility and transparency," Naidu said.

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