Top Court Rejects Opposition's Request To Increase EVM Paper Trail Count

The request by the 21 opposition parties to increase counting of VVPAT machines comes amid constant fights among parties in election season


Supreme Court had told Election Commission to tally only 5 VVPATs with EVMs in every assembly segment

New Delhi: 

The Supreme Court today rejected a plea by 21 opposition parties that asked for counting of at least 25% per cent EVM paper trail machines - instead of only five - in every assembly segment. This was the second time the top court turned down their plea.

"We are not inclined to modify our order," a bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi said today.

During a hearing on April 8, the Election Commission had argued that results of the Lok Sabha election could be delayed by five days if 50 per cent of voter-verifiable paper trail or VVPAT machines in every assembly segment were counted.

The Supreme Court had told the election body to increase the number of VVPAT machines from one to just five, so the delay will be marginal, sources had said.

"We went to the Supreme Court demanding transparency in the election process, but we respect its order. We will now request the Election Commission to revise their guidelines. If a discrepancy is found in any of the five EVMs or VVPATs, then counting should be done for all booths in assembly constituencies," Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu told reporters.

Senior advocate AM Singhvi, appearing for the petitioners, told the top court that increasing random matching of VVPAT slips with EVMs to only five polling booths per assembly segment amounted to tallying just 2 per cent of total VVPAT machines, while they were asking for 25 per cent.

The request by the 21 opposition parties to increase counting of VVPAT machines comes amid constant fights among parties in election season.

"We are happy with the Supreme Court order. It had examined all aspects and said five VVPATs will have to be counted instead of one. EVMs and VVPATs are perfect and we have no doubt they are tamper-proof," Deputy Election Commissioner Sudeep Jain told NDTV.

"Counting of five VVPATs will delay overall counting by five hours. It takes an hour to count one VVPAT, with four more it will take another four hours... The election results may be out on May 23 night or 24 morning," he said.

VVPATs are being used for the first time in any Lok Sabha election; they have till now been used in some parliamentary and assembly bypolls.

After votes are cast, the polling station where VVPAT slips are matched with vote machine results is decided by a draw of lots in the presence of candidates. The Supreme Court's earlier order meant that five polling stations, instead of one, will be picked for the random matching of slips.

The Election Commission had said that based on inputs from the Indian Statistical Institute, a sample survey of 479 assembly segments would generate 99.99 per cent accuracy. The poll body had also flagged infrastructure and workforce constraints; it said it needs a minimum team of three officers to count VVPATs.

The poll body at present matches VVPAT slips of 4,125 EVMs under the "one EVM per assembly segment" guideline. Following the court order, the Election Commission will have to count the VVPAT slips of five times as many machines in each constituency, or that of 20,625 EVMs.

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