Supreme Court serves notice to ECI on plea to tally every EVM vote against VVPAT slips

As per the current process, VVPAT verification is carried out only on votes cast in five randomly selected EVMs in each Assembly segment

Representative image of VVPAT machines (photo: National Herald archives)
Representative image of VVPAT machines (photo: National Herald archives)

NH Digital

The Election Commission of India (ECI) has been served notice by the Supreme Court on Monday in response to a petition demanding a comprehensive tally of voter-verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) slips during elections.

According to the current process, VVPAT verification is carried out only on votes cast in five randomly selected EVMs (electronic voting machines) in each Assembly segment. The petitioner in this case has pleaded that each and every EVM vote should be tallied against VVPAT slips.

The petitioner has also requested that voters be permitted to physically place the slips produced by the VVPAT into a ballot box to confirm that their vote has been accurately registered.

A bench of justices B.R. Gavai and Sandeep Mehta issued notice to the ECI and tagged the plea along with other pending matters concerning EVMs and VVPATs.

The ECI guideline, which requires VVPAT verification to be done in a sequential manner, has been challenged by lawyer and activist Arun Kumar Agrawal in a plea. Agrawal argues that this process causes unnecessary delays.

In end-January, the Congress had criticised the ECI on National Voters' Day for refusing to meet Opposition INDIA bloc leaders on their demand for greater use of VVPATs in elections, terming it as an "injustice" that struck at the very foundations of democracy.

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge had also said National Voters' Day reaffirmed the power of the people to determine their own destiny by exercising the freedom to elect their own representatives.

In a post on X, party MP and general-secretary Jairam Ramesh wrote, "VVPAT is nothing but Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail. This persistent refusal of the ECI is an ANYAY (injustice) that strikes at the very foundations of our democracy, the right of the voter to verify that their vote has been recorded accurately,"

In March 2022, two days before the counting of votes for five Assembly elections, the Supreme Court had declined to grant urgent listing of a plea seeking a direction to increase the number of randomly selected polling stations for the purpose of mandatory verification of VVPAT paper slips from 5 to 25 in each Assembly segment.

Reacting to today's SC directive, Ramesh once again posted on X, "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."

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