A two-judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Deepak Gupta today asked the Election Commission of India (ECI) to file an affidavit by March 27, 2019 explaining the reasons why it cannot increase the count of VVPAT (Voter Verified Paper Trail Audit) slips and their tally with EVM.
“We want you to increase the counting of VVPAT slips. Right now, you are counting only one VVPAT in one polling station. On your own, can you increase this number?” the CJI asked the ECI.
On the ECI’s response that it had no reason to believe the existing system was not working, the CJI retorted “No institution, including the judiciary should insulate itself from suggestions”.
The Court was hearing a PIL jointly filed by the leaders of various political parties. In their petition, they have sought directions to the ECI for random verification of at least 50% Electronic Voting Machines using the VVPAT per Assembly Segment/ Assembly Constituency.
They have also sought quashing of the Election Commission guideline which provides that Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail will be conducted only for VVPAT paper slips of one randomly selected polling station of (a) Assembly Constituency in case of election to State Legislative Assembly and (b) each Assembly Segment in case of election to the House of the People.
Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) is an independent system attached with the Electronic Voting Machines that allows the voters to verify that their votes are cast as intended. When a vote is cast, a slip is printed containing the serial number, name and symbol of the candidate and remains exposed through a transparent window for seven seconds. Thereafter, this printed slip automatically gets cut and falls in the sealed drop box of the VVPAT.
In 2013, on a petition filed by BJP leader Dr. Subramanian Swamy, the Supreme Court had held that a “paper trail” was an indispensable requirement of free and fair elections. EVMs with VVPAT system ensure the accuracy of the voting system.