[dropcap]A[/dropcap] Supreme Court bench led by the Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi today rejected a batch of review petitions against its April 8, 2019 order, directing the Election Commission of India (ECI) to increase the physical verification of Voter Verified Paper Trail (VVPAT) slips from one Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) per assembly constituency to five randomly selected EVMs.
Opposition leaders Chandrababu Naidu, Farooq Abdullah and D Raja were present in the CJI’s courtroom when the order was passed.
“We aren’t inclined to modify our order”, CJI Gogoi said, even as Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi tried to press for a 25% VVPAT cross verification.
One set of review petitions was filed by opposition leaders led by N. Chandrababu Naidudemanding the verification of 50% of the VVPAT slips, and another by three individuals namely M.G. Devasahayam, Kalarickal Pranchu Fabian and Thomas Franco Rajendra Dev, seeking the verification of30% of the VVPAT slips.
Review petitioners M.G. Devasahayam and others had contended that the Supreme Court disposed of the petition directing the ECI to merely increase the number of polling stations from one to five per assembly segment without considering the pleadings, averments and the supporting material filed with the original petitions, and the rejoinder filed by them to the two separate counter affidavits filed by the ECI on February 26, 2019 and March 29, 2019.
This failure to consider such relevant pleadings, averments and the very basis of the petition constituted a gross miscarriage of justice, they said.
Devasahayam had also mentioned that there had been several reports of EVM malfunctions and numerous instances of mismatch between EVM and VVPAT counts in the first three phases of the general elections currently underway, completely altering the basis of the apex court’s April 8 order.
ECI statement manifestly incorrect
Devasahayam and others pointed out that the order under review had been passed after the ECI had made a manifestly and patently incorrect statement that the report that was annexed with its counter affidavit was an “ISI Report”, suggesting that due process had been followed in engaging the Indian Statistical Institute and that the Institute has submitted the report after duly considering it in their respective governing council or sub-committee meetings.
However, material available with the petitioners, which was obtained only on the morning of April 7, 2019, i.e. a day before the Supreme Court order under review, clearly indicates that there was no institutional engagement of the ISI, but that a Dr. Abhay Bhat from the institute had been engaged in his private capacity.