Supreme Court Declines Urgent Hearing Of Plea To Verify Voter Slips With EVMs [8.3.2022]

8.3.2022, Tuesday

New Delhi: 

The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused urgent hearing on a plea seeking verification of Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips with Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) before the counting of votes, saying it is not interfering as the counting is scheduled on March 10 for assembly polls held in five states.

The plea has also said the verification of VVPAT with the EVMs, which are being conducted at five polling booths per assembly segment, be raised to five polling stations, a larger unit as one polling station has several polling booths.

"We are not interfering, let the counting go on as per established practice, procedures and law. They (Election commission) are following the judgment. They have made a statement (to this effect)," said the bench comprising Chief Justice NV Ramana and Justices AS Bopanna and Hima Kohli.

The bench, in the forenoon, reluctantly agreed to hear the plea when senior lawyer Meenakshi Arora, appearing for petitioner Rakesh Kumar, mentioned it for urgent listing saying she will be intimating the poll panel about the proposed hearing.

Later in the afternoon, senior advocate Maninder Singh appeared for the poll panel and said the Commission has been following the verdict of the top court in relation to VVPAT verification and the officials have been trained to counting of votes accordingly.

"We are not interfering at the moment," the bench said, adding that the petition will be considered in the regular course only.

In the morning when the plea was mentioned, the bench said, "You are coming at the last moment... Last minute ,if you are asking us to take it up then we do not have time. You know the counting is the day after tomorrow. You should have mentioned it yesterday. You are mentioning it now. Assuming for a minute, we hear it tomorrow, will it be possible to send to all the states a particular direction to follow."

At the outset, Ms Arora referred to the 2019 order of the top court on a plea of several leaders including Chandrababu Naidu and said that it was directed that the "verification for VVPAT will be done for at least five polling stations".

"But what is being done is the VVPAT verification is being done at one polling booth of a polling station... At one polling station there are more than one polling booths," she said.

She also sought VVPAT verification at the start of the counting against the present practice of doing it at the end.

The verification of the VVPAT is being done at the end after the complete counting is over and by that time, polling agents of many candidates, who are out of fray by the end of the counting, leave the venue and hence there "no transparency" in real sense, she said.

The bench then agreed to hear the plea on Wednesday. But later, on being told by the poll panel, refused to take it up urgently.

The Supreme Court, on April 8, 2019, had directed the Election Commission to increase random matching of VVPAT slips with EVMs to five polling booths per assembly segment, from one, in the then Lok Sabha polls saying it will provide greater satisfaction not just to political parties but the entire electorate.

09 Mar 2022