Fri. Apr 12th, 2024

Supreme Court’s Inquiry: EC’s Stance on Complete VVPAT Count Before Lok Sabha Elections

The recent action taken by the Supreme Court to issue a notice to both the Election Commission and the Central government regarding the verification of Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips has garnered attention and support from various quarters, particularly the Congress party, which views it as a crucial initial step towards electoral transparency.

The plea advocating for a comprehensive count of VVPAT slips gains significance in the context of bolstering public trust in Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and ensuring the integrity of India’s electoral process. Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh has emphasized the urgency of resolving this matter before the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. He has also highlighted the Election Commission’s reluctance to engage with leaders from the INDIA bloc party, who have persistently demanded a 100% VVPAT verification process.

The Supreme Court’s decision to seek responses from both the Election Commission and the central government marks a pivotal moment in the ongoing debate on electoral transparency. The plea challenges the current practice of verifying VVPAT slips from only five randomly selected EVMs per assembly segment in a parliamentary constituency. The VVPAT system acts as an independent mechanism that allows voters to verify their cast votes through a paper slip, which is securely stored for potential review in case of disputes. This system was introduced to enhance voter confidence and ensure the credibility of the electoral process.

Notably, on April 8, 2019, the Supreme Court had directed the Election Commission to expand its VVPAT verification process from one to five EVMs per assembly segment in each parliamentary constituency. This decision was seen as a positive step towards increasing transparency in India’s electoral system.

The bench, comprising justices B R Gavai and Sandeep Mehta, took note of submissions made by lawyers representing activist Arun Kumar Agrawal, who has been advocating for a full count of VVPAT slips. The court has scheduled a hearing on May 17 to further deliberate on this plea.

Agrawal’s legal representation, including senior lawyer Gopal Sankaranarayanan and advocate Neha Rathi, has criticized the Election Commission’s guideline that mandates sequential verification of VVPAT slips. They argue that adopting simultaneous verification across multiple stations, with additional personnel deployed for counting in each assembly constituency, could facilitate complete VVPAT verification within a shorter timeframe of five to six hours. This legal challenge seeks to transform the current approach to VVPAT verifications, proposing a more efficient and comprehensive method that could significantly reduce the time required for this crucial process.

The upcoming hearing and subsequent decisions by the Supreme Court regarding VVPAT verification are eagerly awaited by stakeholders across the political spectrum and civil society, as they hold the potential to shape the future of electoral transparency and accountability in India.

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