In a major setback to opposition parties, who are fighting against EVMs, the Supreme Court, today, rejected review plea filed by twenty-one Opposition parties, seeking 50 per cent verification of VVPAT (Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail) slips, as against five in a constituency during the counting of votes in the general elections 2019. ”We are not inclined to modify our order”, SC said while dismissing review plea on random matching of VVPAT slips.
A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Deepak Gupta told senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi that the review petition would be listed for hearing next week. Singhvi urged the court to list the review petition as counting of votes is to be down on May 23. On April 8, the court had partially allowed the original plea by directing the Election Commission to increase random matching of VVPAT slips with EVMs to five polling booths from one per Assembly segment in the ongoing general elections.
Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu and 20 others sought review of this order, saying that the “increase from one to five is not a ‘reasonable number’ and does not lead to the satisfaction desired by this court”. The petitioners submitted that the increase to a mere 2 per cent is not sufficient and will not make any substantial difference to the situation that existed prior to the passing of the impugned order.
The petition was originally filed challenging the decision of ECI to verify VVPAT of only one randomly selected booth of a constituency. The petitioners say that this will account only for 0.44 per cent of the votes polled. This guideline defeats the entire purpose of VVPAT and makes the same “ornamental” without actual substance, they argued.
They submitted that once this court agreed that the number of EVMs that should be subjected to VVPAT verification should be increased to a ‘reasonable number’, not increasing the same to a number which is ‘reasonable’ because it may not be ‘viable’ to do so rendered the entire exercise otiose and futile. Consequently, they said that the “viable number” must also necessarily be reasonable.