Source: 
SCC Times
https://www.scconline.com/blog/post/2024/04/04/inside-supreme-court-order-on-evm-vvpat-verification/
Author: 
Apoorva
Date: 
04.04.2024
City: 

The petitioner sought for verifying the count in EVMs with votes that have been verifiably ‘recorded as cast’ and to ensure that he is able to verify through the paper slip of VVPATs that his vote as recorded on the paper slip has been ‘counted as recorded’.

Supreme Court: In a writ petition filed seeking direction to the Election Commission of India (‘ECI’) to mandatorily cross verify the count in Electronic Voting Machines (‘EVM’) with votes that have been verifiably ‘recorded as cast’ by the voter through the voter verifiable paper audit trail (‘VVPATs’) by counting all VVPAT slips, the division bench of B.R. Gavai and Sandeep Mehta, JJ. has issued a notice to the ECI.

Background:

In 1961, the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 was passed, and in 2013 VVPAT’s were introduced by an amendment. In Subramanian Swamy v. Election Commission of India, (2013) 10 SCC 500 the Court directed the ECI to introduce VVPAT in EVMs for the very first time. Thereafter, ECI issued circular which mandated that VVPAT shall be universally used at all polling stations in all future elections to Parliament and State Legislative Assemblies conducted using EVMs. ECI also issued a Manual on Conduct of Elections with EVM-VVPAT along with a series of Circulars and Instructions. However, the manual does not provide for a situation where there are discrepancies during the counting process. In 2023, ECI issued Manual on EVM and VVPAT, 2023. Thereafter, the Petitioner gave a representation to ECI, that he has not been provided with any physical proof of how he has voted or whether his vote has been counted and requested ECI to provide him with a paper copy of the VVPAT receipt. In 2024, this Court has passed order dated 09-02-2024 filed by Association of Democratic Reforms which has been filed seeking cross verification of EVM Counts with VVPAT slips. Hence, the petitioner filed this present petition.

Contentions:

The petitioner submitted that Guideline 14.7(h) of the Manual on EVM and VVPAT, 2023 issued by ECI allows for verification count of VVPAT paper slips sequentially i.e. one after the other, which causes delay in counting. Further, Guideline 14.7(h) is completely arbitrary, and has no proximity with the objective of verification count of VVPAT slips and is devoid of any rationale. It is also submitted that there is no reason why multiple VCB (with CCTV) cannot be deployed for verification count of all VVPAT slips.

The petitioner sought the following:

  • Quashing and setting aside of Guideline No. 14.7(h) of the Manual on Electronic Voting Machine and VVPAT dated 2023 as framed and issued by ECI in so far as it allows only sequential verification of VVPAT slips resulting in undue delay in counting of all VVPAT slips.

  • A direction that the voter should be allowed to physically drop VVPAT slip as generated by the VVPAT in a ballot box to ensure that the voter’s ballot has been ‘counted as recorded’.

  • A direction to the ECI to make the glass of the VVPAT machine transparent and duration of the light long enough for the voter to see the paper recording his vote cut and drop into the drop box to ensure greater satisfaction.

Court’s order:

The Court issued a notice to ECI demanding mandatory cross-verification of EVMs with VVVPAT slips.

[Arun Kumar Agrawal v Election Commission of India, Writ Petition(s)(Civil) No(s). 184/2024, Order dated 01-04-2024]


Advocates who appeared in this case :

For Petitioner(s):Gopal Sankaranarayanan, Sr. Adv.,Neha Rathi, AOR, Kajal Giri, Adv. , Vishal Sinha, Adv.

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