Hindustan Times
HT News Desk

The petition challenged the election commission's guidelines that mandates that that VVPAT verification shall be done sequentially, i.e. one after the other.

The Supreme Court on Monday issued notices to the Election Commission of India (ECI) and the BJP-led central government on a petition seeking the complete counting of all Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) paper slips in the general elections.

A bench comprising justices B R Gavai and Sandeep Mehta issued notices to the ECI, while taking note of the petitions filed by activist Arun Kumar Agrawal and the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), news agency ANI reported.

The petition further challenged the commission's guidelines that mandates VVPAT verification shall be done sequentially, i.e. one after the other, causing undue delay. The plea stated, "If simultaneous verification is done and more officers are deployed for counting in each assembly constituency, then complete VVPAT verification can be done in a matter of 5-6 hours."

The Centre has spent nearly 5,000 crore on purchase of nearly 24 lakh VVPATs but presently, VVPAT slips of only approximately 20,000 VVPATs are verified, it further said.

"Given that many questions are being raised by experts with regard to VVPATs and EVMs and the fact that a large number of discrepancies between EVM and VVPAT vote count have been reported in the past, it is imperative that all VVPAT slips are counted and a voter is given an opportunity to properly verify that his vote as cast in the ballot is also counted by allowing him to physically drop his/her VVPAT slip in the ballot box", the plea added.

The court later issued the notice and tagged it with pending matters on the issue.

Meanwhile, the Congress hailed the top court's cognisance as an "important first step" and said the matter should be decided before the Lok Sabha polls commence.

In a post on X, Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said, "The Supreme Court has issued a notice today to the Election Commission on the issue of VVPATs. It bears constant repetition that the Election Commission has refused to meet a delegation of INDIA (bloc) party leaders who have been demanding 100 percent VVPATs in order to increase public confidence in EVMs and to ensure the integrity of the electoral process."

What is a VVPAT?

The Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) is an independent vote verification system permits an elector to see whether his vote was cast correctly.

First introduced in India in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the VVPAT is a ballot-less system connected with the EVM which prints a paper slip when a voter casts his/her vote on the EVM against the candidate's name and the symbol of the party he/she is standing for.

As soon as the voter presses the button on the EVM, the VVPAT machine prints the slip that contains the name and symbol of the party they have voted for. The machine also has a transparent window where a voter can see the printed slip. After this, the slip goes inside a sealed box of the machine.

The top court, on April 8, 2019, had ordered the ECI to increase the number of EVMs that undergo VVPAT physical verification from one to five per assembly segment in a parliamentary constituency.

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