Live Law
Debby Jain

The Supreme Court today issued notice on a petition seeking inter-alia counting of all Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) paper slips in elections, instead of verification of only 5 randomly selected Electronic Voting Machines( EVMs) in each assembly segment of a parliamentary constitutency .

The Bench of Justices BR Gavai and Sandeep Mehta passed the order, tagging the petition with another plea filed by the Association for Democratic Reforms seeking similar reliefs.

The petition further challenges EC's guideline that mandates that VVPAT verification shall be done sequentially, i.e. one after the other, causing undue delay. The petition contends that 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 petitioner argued that while the government has spent nearly 5000 Crores on the purchase of nearly 24 lakh VVPATs, presently VVPAT slips of only approximately 20,000 VVPATs are verified. 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 the voter is allowed to properly verify that his vote as cast in the ballot is also counted by allowing him to physically drop his/her VVPAT slip on the ballot box.

The petitioner seeks four reliefs -

(i) That the respondent ECI mandatorily cross verify the count in EVMs with votes that have been verifiably 'recorded as cast' by the voter through the VVPATs by counting all VVPAT paper slips;

(ii) That Guideline No. 14.7(h) of the Manual on Electronic Voting Machine and VVPAT dated August 2023 as framed and issued by Election Commission of India be quashed, in so far as it allows only sequential verification of VVPAT slips resulting in undue delay in counting of all VVPAT slips;

(iii) That the ECI allow a voter to physically drop the VVPAT slip as generated by the VVPAT in a ballot box to ensure that the voter's ballot has been 'counted as recorded'; and/or

(iv) That the respondents make the glass of the VVPAT machine transparent and the duration of the light long enough for the voter to see the paper recording his vote cut and drop into the drop box

Senior Advocate Gopal Sankarnarayanan and Neha Rathi appeared for the petitioner.

Earlier, responding to a similar petition filed by the ADR, the Election Commission of India had cited practical difficulties in verifying all VVPATs. A bench led by Justice Sanjiv Khanna, while hearing the ADR's petition, had expressed reservations about the demand for 100% VVPAT verification, saying that it will add to the ECI's burden without much significant advantage.

Case Title: Arun Kumar Agrawal v. Election Commission of India and Anr., W.P.(C) 184/2024

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