THE Election Commission (EC) Wednesday rejected the Opposition’s demand for verification of VVPAT slips before counting begins. Mandatory tallying of paper slips with EVM count in five polling stations in each Assembly segment will take place at the end as per
“The Supreme Court order of April 8, which directed the Commission to increase compulsorily verification of VVPAT slips from one polling station to five in each Assembly segment, clearly states that tallying will be done as per the guidelines in force. We are honouring the apex court’s verdict in letter and spirit,” said an EC official on the condition of anonymity.
On Tuesday, 22 Opposition parties approached EC drawing its attention to reports of what they called suspicious EVM movements and demanded that matching of VVPAT slips should take place before the EVM count begins and, in case of any discrepancy, tallying should be extended to all polling stations of the Assembly segment.
The full Commission unanimously decided against making any last-minute changes to the counting process, especially since it was upheld by the highest court last month while rejecting the Opposition’s plea for verifying papers slips of at least 50% VVPAT machines with EVM count.
“After two rounds of in-depth discussions yesterday and today, it has neither been found possible nor feasible to accede to this demand in the overall context and especially in view of the judgment of Hon’ble Supreme Court in Writ Petition (C) No. 273 of 2019 delivered on 8.4.2019,” states EC’s press release.
“The said judgment directs that the random selection of VVPATs shall be subjected to the process of slip verification as per the guidelines 16.6 of EVM Manual in force,” it further states.
The Commission also assured the Opposition and the voters that the strongrooms, where the polled voting machines are stored, and the counting centres are being guarded in an “absolutely fair and transparent manner”.
In a separate instruction issued to all Chief Electoral Officers (CEOs) Tuesday, the Commission reiterated that in case VVPAT slips do not match with the EVM count, then the VVPAT count will prevail, provided in Rule 56D (4)(b) of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961.
“A thorough analysis/enquiry shall be conducted in due course in all cases where the VVPAT slip count failed to tally with the electronic result of the CU (Control Unit) and the exact reasons, technological, procedural, systemic, human error or lapses in compliance shall be ascertained and appropriate action(s) taken by the Commission,” EC’s instruction states.
This instruction was issued in the wake of the Opposition seeking a clarification on what the EC would do if VVPAT slips do not match EVM count. Senior Congress leader Abhishek Singhvi, who argued the Opposition’s case during the meeting with EC Tuesday, said it is “complete mystery” as to why the demand was rejected.
“What on earth can be a possible, forget probable, ground for rejection of this most reasonable demand? The demand was that you are mandatorily obliged to count five VVPAT along with matching with the EVMs in each assembly segment. This is not my rule, this is not your rule, it is the Supreme Court’s rule….We said that this checking by lottery should happen at beginning of counting not at the end of the counting. I don’t think it requires rocket science or logic to understand why,” he said. “The idea is to check in the beginning whether the sample is poisoned or not. Logically, it should be done in the beginning. How can it be done after so many rounds are completed? What is the purpose of it?”
On the rejection of the second demand that 100 per cent tallying of VVPATs should be extended to all polling stations of Assembly segments in case of any mismatch, he said “what is so troublesome about this simple request. We don’t know, no reasons are given, the only thing we can guess is that there is some fear, some hesitation.”
BJP President Amit Shah slammed the Opposition for questioning the credibility of EVMs. “Opposition to EVMs is an insult to the mandate of the people. Unnerved by certain defeat, these 22 parties are bringing a bad name to the country and its democratic process,” he tweeted Wednesday.
He further asked the Opposition why they did not doubt the EVMs when they won elections in the past and whether they were questioning the wisdom of the highest court of the country. He also said that the campaign against EVMs only picked up pace after the exit polls, pointing to BJP’s win, were released
The EC decision, CPM General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, said, “goes against the spirit of the Supreme Court Order on VVPATs delivered before polling began. If the process has been so long drawn for the sake of integrity of the electoral process, why is EC not adhering to the basic principle of testing the sample first?”
“Integrity of EVMs by matching with sample VVPATs has to be done at the start of the counting. Doing so after the trends are declared makes it infructuous and is likely to lead to protests and a possible law and order situation from the affected candidates,” he said.