Day 2 Arguments: 8 April 2019

The Bench ordered the Election Commission (EC) to increase the number of Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips that are physically verified, from 1 booth to 5 per Assembly Segment. The Bench comprises Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjeev Khanna.

 

A VVPAT is a device that allows a voter to verify their vote -- it provides the voter with a paper slip containing the symbol of the party they for. The voter cannot take the slip home as it drops into an inaccessible box after a few seconds. Currently, under ECI Guideline 16.6, the Election Commission is required to do VVPAT verification for 1 Electronic Voting Machine per Assembly Seat. 

 

Various petitions were filed by 21 Opposition leaders including Mr. Chandrababu Naidu of TDP, Sharad Pawar of NCP, Derek O Brien of TMC, MK Stalin of DMK, Arvind Kerjiwal of AAP, among others wanting the Election Commission to verify at least 50% VVPAT slips. Mr. AM Singhvi and Mr. Kapil Sibal represented some of the petitioners.

 

In an earlier hearing, the Election Commission had informed the Court that election results would be delayed by 6 days, if 50% of VVPAT slips are to be verified. Today, the advocate for the petitioner questioned the 6 day delay as claimed by the Election Commission.  

 

Appearing for the Election Commission, Mr. CA Sunderam submitted that VVPAT counting is a manual job. He argued that an increase in manual counting, would increase the error percentage. Mr. Sudeep Jain, the Deputy Election Commissioner objected to the petitioner's demand for 50% verrification, on the ground that such change would lead to substantial increase in cost of personnel posted in each of the 4125 polling stations. 

 

The Supreme Court chose to strike a balance and ordered the Election Commission to physically verify VVPAT slips 5 EVMs per Assembly Segment, in the 7 phase parliamentary elections starting on 11 April.

(Court reporting by Abhishek Sankritik)