Newsclick Report
New Delhi

The top court is hearing petitions, including by ADR, raising concerns over EVMs and demanding 100% verification of VVPAT slips.

One day before the country goes for the first phase of polling on Friday, April 19, to elect a new Lok Sabha, the Supreme Court has asked the Election Commission (EC) to look into a mock drill of VVPAT machines in Kerala where extra votes were recorded in favour of the Bharatiya Janata party (BJP).

According to a report in The News Minute, on April 17, “three VVPAT (Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail) machines printed one extra slip each with BJP’s lotus symbol during two rounds of mock polls in Kasaragod.”

The Supreme Court’s directive to the EC came while hearing petitions filed by the election watchdog, Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) and others seeking verification of data against all VVPAT slips.

“This is an electoral process and there has to be sanctity to it and let no have apprehension that something which is expected is not being done,” the bench, consisting of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta, observed.

In Kasargod government college in Kerala, the EVMs had names of 10 candidates, including the NOTA (none of the above) option.

B M Jamal, the chief election agent of Congress candidate Rajmohan Unnithan told TNM that “when the machines were initialised, three out of 10 VVPAT machines printed out ‘test prints’ with the BJP’s lotus symbol on it and the words ‘not to be counted’ on top in small letters. Nasar Cherkalam, election agent of Unnithan, said that while the issue persisted for two rounds of mock poll, it was rectified in the third round.”

The Kasargod incident was flagged in the court by senior advocate Prashant Bhushan.

However, the EC’s counsel maintained that the Kasargod incident was “not correct”.  “It was a fault in a 2019 app as we cited and the data was not being updated synchronously. It has been worked on now and there are no errors,” he was quoted as saying by Bar & Bench.

There have been widespread concerns among various Opposition parties, civil society groups and the general public about the functioning of EVMs (electronic voting machines) and the matching of VVPAT paper slips that are supposed to record which candidate has been voted for. Some parties and experts have demanded that the EC should match 100% or at least 50% slips of all votes cast.

However, the top court has rejected 100% matching or going back to ballot paper. The hearing on the case is still underway.

The 28-party Opposition INDIA bloc, raising various doubts over the EVM-VVPAT matching, recently passed a resolution demanding that VVPAT slips be handed over the voter and that 100% matching should be done.

The INDIA bloc had also submitted a memorandum to the EC and had sought appointments to raise its concerns, but in vain.

"Our suggestion is simple: Instead of the voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) slip falling in the box, it should be handed over to the voter who shall then place it in a separate ballot box after having verified his or her choice. 100% counting of VVPAT slips should then be done," the resolution adopted unanimously at the opposition alliance meeting said, adding that "This will restore full confidence of the people in free and fair elections."

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