The Supreme Court on Monday ordered the Election Commission to increase the VVPAT count of one randomly selected electronic voting machine per Assembly constituency to five in the Lok Sabha polls, saying that it is to ensure the “greatest degree of accuracy and satisfaction” in the electoral process.
“Increasing the VVPAT verification from one EVM per constituency to five is to ensure the greatest degree of accuracy, satisfaction in the election process and not only political parties but the poor should be satisfied,” a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said.
The court was hearing a petition by 21 parties, led by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, seeking random count of Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) of at least 50 per cent of the EVMs per Assembly segment in a Lok Sabha seat before the declaration of result.
The court’s order came in after the petitioners submitted on Saturday that they were agreeable to a delay of even five days in the declaration of the Lok Sabha poll results if the Election Commission approved their demand for verification of 50 per cent votes through paper trail.
In an affidavit, the parties had said, “Even a delay of 5.2 days in declaring results of general election is not a serious delay if it ensures the integrity of the electoral process. If delay of 5.2 days is to be balanced with integrity of electoral process, the balance will certainly tilt towards the integrity…”
They had said that the delay will only occur if the poll body chooses not to increase the manpower.
“If the manpower is increased, counting can be completed in a day even if 50 per cent EVMs are verified using paper trails. We are not casting any aspersion on the Election Commission. We only want a free and fair election process,” the parties had said.
The affidavit had come in response to the stand of the election watchdog that such a verification exercise in all the constituencies will delay counting due to logistical difficulties. The EC, in an affidavit, had also said it could delay the announcement
of results by at least six days.
The EC provision had allowed VVPAT paper-slip matching of only one EVM per Assembly segment.
Apart from Naidu, the petitioners included KC Venugopal (Congress), Arvind Kejriwal (AAP), Akhilesh Yadav (SP), Sharad Pawar (NCP), Derek O Brien (TMC), Farooq Abdullah (NC) and Danish Ali (JDS).