Opposition leaders seek 50% VVPAts to be tallied with voting machines

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]HE Supreme Court today issued notice on a petition filed jointly by 21 opposition party leaders in the Supreme Court, asking for a 50 per cent voter verifiable paper audit trails (VVPATs) to be tallied with the voting machines during the upcoming general elections.

The bench headed by Chief Justice of India Rajan Gogoi asked the Election Commission of India (ECI) to furnish their response on March 25, 2019. The Court has also asked the ECI to depute a senior officer to assist the court in the matter.


“Arbitrary Demand”, says EC official


Opposition leaders approached the ECI in the first week of February 2019, to consider their demand of 50 per cent verification of VVPATs since, they believed electronic voting machines (EVMs) could be tampered with. However, a senior Election Commission official called the demand arbitrary.



While the EC has consistently said that EVMs in India are tamper-proof, opposition parties have maintained their allegation that they have been tampered in order to benefit the present ruling party.


EVMs with VVPATs ensure accuracy, said SC in 2013


The Supreme Court, in 2013, in a petition filed by the now BJP Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy, had asked the EC to introduce paper trails in EVMs for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, saying it “it is an indispensable requirement of free, fair and transparent” polls which will restore the confidence of the voters.



The bench of Justices P Sathasivam and Ranjan Gogoi in its judgment had then said that “EVMs with VVPAT system ensure the accuracy of the voting system. With an intent to have fullest transparency in the system and to restore the confidence of the voters, it is necessary to set up EVMs with VVPAT system because a vote is nothing but an act of expression which has immense importance in a democratic system” (Dr Subramanian Swamy v. Election Commission of India, 2013 SCC SC 1374). The Court had also directed the Centre to provide financial assistance to the poll panel for introducing the VVPATs system with the EVMs.


21 opposition party leaders


The petitioning opposition party include K C Venugopal of the Indian National Congress, Derek O’Brien of Trinamool Congress, Sharad Yadav of Loktantrik Janata Dal, Akhilesh Yadav of Samajwadi Party, Satish Cahndra Mishra of Bahujan Samaj Party, M K Stalin of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Chandrababu Naidu of Telugu Desham Party, Sharad Pawar of Nationalist Congress Party, T K Ranga Rajan of Communist Party of India (Marxist), S Sudhakar Reddu of Communist Party of India, Manoj Kumar Jha of Rashtriya Janata Dal, Arvind Kejirwal of Aam Aadmi Party, Farookh Abudullah of National Conference, K Danish Ali of Janata Dal (Secular), M Badruddin Ajmal of All India United Democratic Front, Jithin Ram Manji of Hindustani Awam Morcha, Ashok Kumar Singh of Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik), Khorrum Anis Omar of Indian Union Muslim League, Prof Kodanadram of Telangana Jana Samithi, K G Kenye of Naga Peoples Front.

On January 7, 2019, a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul had issued notice on a similar petition requiring Election Commission of India (ECI) to count and cross-verify the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trails (“VVPATs”) in at least 30% (randomly chosen) of all polling stations within each Assembly Segment/Constituency.

The Petition — jointly was filed by one, M G Devasahayam, former Secretary Haryana Government, two, KP Fabian, former ambassador to Italy and three, Thomas Franco, former General Secretary, All India Bank Officers Confederation, and argued by  advocate Prasanna S — contended that such cross-verification and counting of VVPAT slips is essential in the interests of “democracy principles”. That petition is pending in the Apex Court. 


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