Supreme Court Sends Notice to Election Commission Over Demand for Full EVM Votes-VVPAT Authentication

Supreme Court notices Election Commission on plea for complete verification of EVM votes with VVPAT, addressing concerns over electoral transparency.

The Supreme Court today issued notice on a petition advocating for comprehensive counting of Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips in elections. The petition challenges the current practice of verifying only five randomly selected Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) per assembly segment. Justices BR Gavai and Sandeep Mehta passed the order, tagging the petition with another plea filed by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) seeking similar reliefs.

The petition further contests the Election Commission's guideline mandating sequential VVPAT verification, arguing that simultaneous verification with increased officer deployment could expedite the process. It asserts that complete VVPAT verification can be achieved within 5-6 hours per assembly constituency.

The petitioner raises concerns regarding the discrepancy between the significant expenditure on VVPATs and the limited number of VVPAT slips verified. With only approximately 20,000 VVPATs verified out of nearly 24 lakh purchased, the petitioner emphasizes the necessity of counting all VVPAT slips. Experts have highlighted questions regarding VVPATs and EVMs, alongside past discrepancies between EVM and VVPAT vote counts, underscoring the importance of comprehensive verification.

The petitioner seeks four reliefs:

  1. Mandating the Election Commission to cross-verify EVM counts with VVPATs by counting all VVPAT paper slips.
  2. Quashing Guideline No. 14.7(h) of the Manual on Electronic Voting Machine and VVPAT, which allows only sequential verification of VVPAT slips, causing undue delay.
  3. Allowing voters to physically drop VVPAT slips into a ballot box to ensure that their ballots are counted accurately.
  4. Making the glass of VVPAT machines transparent and extending the duration of the light to enable voters to observe the paper recording their vote being cut and dropped into the drop box.

Senior Advocate Gopal Sankarnarayanan and Neha Rathi represent the petitioner. Earlier, in response to a similar petition by the ADR, the Election Commission cited practical difficulties in verifying all VVPATs. A bench, led by Justice Sanjiv Khanna, expressed reservations about the demand for 100% VVPAT verification, noting potential burdens without significant advantages.