Check Five Polling Stations Per Assembly Segment: SC

The Supreme Court asked the Election Commission of India to increase matching of voter verifiable paper audit trails with electronic voting machines in five polling stations selected at random per assembly segment from one that the poll panel wanted to stick with. The court also rejected the public interest litigation filed by 21 opposition parties that sought matching for half of all in the country in the upcoming elections.

Deputy election commissioner Sudeep Jain informed the court that any changes could mean delaying the announcement of results. “We will need more infrastructure and manpower,” Jain told the court, opposing the suggestion to raise the number of polling station counts being cross-verified.

The apex court said there was no reason this should delay results with an increase in personnel. The Election Commission had told the bench led by chief justice Ranjan Gogoi that the existing system was “complaint free” and “statistically” robust.

The Indian Statistical Institute had suggested that “tallying 479 EVMs was enough to guarantee 99%,” it told the bench, which also comprised justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna. Against that, the poll panel would check eight times that number — 4,125 EVMs — throughout the country, Jain said, under the existing system. Senior advocate Aryama Sundaram, representing the commission, asked why a process that was working fine needed to be changed.

He was assisted by Election Commission standing counsel Amit Sharma. Sundaram also said that suspicions about the process were largely driven by “perception” and warned that introducing a greater “human element” in the process would increase the possibility of error.

The court said it wasn’t “doubting” the existing system. “It is possible that the system throws up accurate results,” the bench said. “We are of the view that if the number of EVMs in which VVPATs are subjected to physical verification is increased from one to five (polling stations) neither arranging additional manpower (need) be difficult nor the results delayed.” This will generate the greatest degree of satisfaction and ensure accuracy, it said. The Lok Sabha elections are being held in seven phases from April 11 to May 19 with counting on May 23. Since India switched to EVMs over the past two decades, results have typically been announced on counting day for most seats. Assembly elections will be held simultaneously in Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim.

The poll panel had earlier said that increasing the number of EVMs that are to be tallied with VVPATs to 50% would delay the results by at least five-six days.

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