The Supreme Court Monday asked 21 opposition leaders to file within a week their reply on the Election Commission's affidavit on their plea seeking counting of at least 50 per cent of Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips in Lok Sabha and assembly polls.
In its affidavit EC has said that any further increase in the sample size of verification from the existing norm of one polling booth per assembly segment would lead to very negligible gain in the confidence level, which is way above 99.99 per cent.
It has said that 50 per cent VVPAT slip verification as sought by opposition leaders in each assembly segment of a Parliamentary or Assembly Constituency on an average shall enlarge the time required for counting to about six days.
The 21 opposition leaders led by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu had sought that VVPAT slips of at least 50 per cent of voting machines in each assembly constituency be checked randomly during Lok Sabha polls.
A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna said that it wants the petitioners to file the reply to the affidavit by April 8.
Senior advocate Abhishek M Singhvi, appearing for the opposition leaders, said that he needs to file reply to EC's affidavit on three-four points.
Election Commission has further stated: "It is also relevant to mention that in many Assembly Constituencies, there are more than 400 polling stations, which will require about 8-9 days to complete the VVPAT slip count. It is pertinent to mention that demands for re-count that routinely arise of the VVPAT slips themselves, which will compound the time requirement."
It said increased VVPAT slip counting will require extensive training and capacity building of election officials in the field and substantial increase of such officials will be required for deployment in the field.
"It is further submitted that when the polls are imminent and polling is to commence from April 11, 2019, to now seek to alter the system adopted by the Election Commission of India at this stage might not be feasible," the affidavit said.
The poll panel currently adopts a system of counting of VVPAT slips in one polling booth per assembly constituency in the Vidhan Sabha polls and in one polling booth in each assembly segment for the Lok Sabha polls.
The affidavit said that the 21 opposition leaders have not disclose "even one specific instance for this Court to come to a conclusion that the existing system would in any manner adversely influence the free and fair elections".
The EC, which was asked on March 25 by the top court to give its view on increasing the number of random sample surveys from one booth per assembly segment, had said that in the future elections it may consider suggestions for further improving the holding of polls in free and fair manner.
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