Supreme Court issues notice to ECI on plea seeking thorough count of VVPAT slips for all voting

The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice to the Election Commission of India (ECI) on a plea seeking a thorough count of Voter-Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips for all voting across the country.

Currently, VVPAT verification is done only with respect to votes recorded in 5 randomly selected Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in each assembly segment. The petitioner urged that each and every EVM vote should be tallied against VVPAT slips.

Furthermore, the plea has also sought a direction that voters should be allowed to physically drop the slips generated by the VVPAT in a ballot box to ascertain that the voter’s ballot has been counted as recorded. A bench comprising Justice BR Gavai and Justice Sandeep Mehta issued notice to the Election Commission and tagged the plea along with other pending matters concerning EVM and VVPAT. 

The plea lodged by lawyer and activist Arun Kumar Agrawal has challenged the Election Commission’s guideline that mandates VVPAT verification to be conducted sequentially, particularly, one after the other, causing undue delay. The petition also argued that conducting simultaneous verification and deploying additional officers for counting in each assembly constituency would enable complete VVPAT verification to be done within 5-6 hours.

The plea also sought to quash and set aside of Guideline No. 14.7(h) of the Manual on Electronic Voting Machine and VVPAT dated August, 2023 as framed and issued by EC in so far as it allows only sequential verification of VVPAT slips resulting in undue delay in counting of all VVPAT slips.

The petition also noted that despite the government spending nearly Rs 5,000 crores on the purchase of nearly 24 lakh VVPATs, slips from only around 20,000 VVPATs are verified. The plea argued that amid numerous concerns raised by experts regarding VVPATs and EVMs coupled with the significant number of reported discrepancies between EVM and VVPAT vote counts in the past, it is necessary that all VVPAT slips be meticulously counted.

The plea submitted that voters should be afforded the opportunity to thoroughly verify that their votes on the EVM are accurately accounted for, by allowing them to physically deposit their VVPAT slips in a ballot box.

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