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In a blow to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the Delhi High Court on Friday dismissed its plea for using paper trail electronic voting machines (EVMs) in the municipal polls scheduled for April 23. Justice A K Pathak rejected the petition, also filed by AAP candidate Mohd Tahir Hussain contesting in the MCD polls from east Delhi, saying no such direction can be issued at the “eleventh hour” as it could amount to “stalling the elections”.
The court did not say anything in its order regarding the merits or demerits of using the current EVMs which the petitioners said were obsolete and open to tampering. During the arguments, the court had asked the state election commission (SEC) of Delhi why it did not opt for new generation paper trail EVMs in view of the Supreme Court’s observation in Subramanian Swamy’s case that such machines should be brought into use in a phased manner.
The SEC, represented by advocate Sumeet Pushkarna, had opposed the plea arguing that huge expenditure was required to acquire the machines and that procurement of about 13,000 VVPATs was being considered. VVPAT or voter-verified paper audit trail is a machine attached to Generation 2 or 3 EVMs which shows in whose favour a vote has been cast when a voter presses a button of his/her choice on the voting machine.
The petitioners had sought directions to the Delhi SEC and the Election Commission of India to use VVPAT enabled Generation 2 or 3 EVMs in the MCD polls. The SEC had opposed the plea also on the ground that the aspersions raised by the AAP on the use of the older model-one EVMs in the MCD polls sends a wrong message to the voters.
It also contended that the VVPATs cannot be procured and used at such short notice as the poll results are to be declared on April 26 and a new house of MCD has to be put in place by April 30. The SEC also said the petitioners did not show any material that the model-one EVMs were open to tampering and it was only an apprehension they had.
Pushkarna also contended that the ECI had allowed the Delhi SEC to borrow the EVMs from Rajasthan and Delhi only. The petitioners, on the other hand, had contended that even the apex court had noted that model one EVMs were open to tampering and therefore, VVPAT attached EVMs were the only answer for free and fair elections.
They had also claimed that there were around 15,000 VVPAT machines available with the ECI which were sufficient for the conduct of the municipal election.