SC Rejects Opposition’s VVPAT Demand

The Supreme Court has rejected a review petition of 21 major opposition parties which pleaded that the court direct the Election Commission to compulsorily tally VVPAT count with at least 50% EVMs during the May 23 counting of votes for the Lok Sabha polls.

A bench led by chief justice Ranjan Gogoi had raised the VVPAT tallying from one booth per assembly segment to five earlier, ignoring EC’s protests, after the opposition’s initial appeal. The opposition parties pointed to EVM malfunctioning in recent phases of polling across the country to demand matching of at least 50% EVMs with VVPATs.

Appearing for the parties, senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi told the court that they would be happy with tallying of 25-33% VVPATs with EVMs, if 50% was not possible. The CJI, however, rejected the demand. The petition cited recent instances of voters claiming that their votes went to a different party and not the one they had voted for. Among complainants was former Assam top cop who said that he did not complain for fear of prosecution if a test vote could not prove his complaint of a faulty EVM.

TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu was present during the hearing. Naidu and Singhvi later told a news conference outside the court that the parties planned to go back to the Election Commission to ask it to frame new rules to deal with cases of mismatch of VVPATs with EVMs. There is currently no mechanism on how to address such a discrepancy, they said and wanted EC to address the issue. The parties may return to court in case EC fails to frame new rules. EC had in the first round of litigation refused to increase the number of VVPATs to be tallied with EVMs from one booth to 5 booths per assembly segment. It also said that a 50% match was not possible just ahead of counting because of the logistics involved. It would delay counting by 5-6 days, it said. The court overruled EC and directed it to increase the matches to 5 booths per assembly segment from 1.

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