The Supreme Court on Monday ordered the Election Commission to increase the cross-examination of slips from Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) of five EVMs in every constituency instead of one in the Lok Sabha election 2019. The EC matches the VVPAT slips for only one polling booth in each constituency at present.
The bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi directed for these EVMs to continue to be chosen at random, the objective being to ensure a higher degree of accuracy to enhance the satisfaction in free and fair elections of not just the political parties but of the people of the country, though clarifying that the efficacy of the system as it presently exists or the credibility of the EVMs is not doubted.
The top court’s order came in response to a petition filed by 21 opposition parties, which sought that 50% of the VVPATs must be verified.
Many opposition parties claim that “EVMs are susceptible to tampering” and initially wanted that the government go back to use of paper ballots. After the Election Commission ruled it out, opposition parties demanded that at least 50% votes be verified.
VVPAT or verifiable paper record (VPR) is a method of providing feedback to voters using a ballotless voting system. A VVPAT is intended as an independent verification system for voting machines designed to allow voters to verify that their vote was cast correctly, to detect possible election fraud or malfunction, and to provide a means to audit the stored electronic results. It contains the name of the candidate (for whom vote has been cast) and symbol of the party/individual candidate. The voter can see the paper through a glass display for seven seconds before it drops into a sealed container.
The 2019 Lok Sabha election would be the first where all voting machines would be attached with VVPAT machines but the poll watchdog has not specified yet how many of these would be counted. It had engaged the Kolkata-headquartered Indian Statistical Institute for its recommendation.
The Election Commission had announced that VVPATs will be used in all polling stations along with EVMs while announcing the schedule of this summer’s general elections.
It had earlier rejected demands that 30% of the VVPAT slips should be counted. It had then argued that counting paper slips for a third of the country’s 87 lakh electors would be a logistical nightmare.
The Supreme Court in a 2013 judgment had held that VVPAT was an indispensable requirement of free and fair elections.