The Supreme Court will on Friday hear a plea by leaders of 21 political parties seeking a direction to the Election Commission to randomly verify at least 50 per cent votes using voter verifiable paper audit trails (VVPATs) in the upcoming elections. The matter has been listed before a bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi.
The plea also sought quashing of the EC guideline, according to which verification will be conducted for VVPAT paper slips of only one randomly selected polling station of an Assembly constituency in case of Assembly polls and each Assembly segment in case of Lok Sabha elections. It demanded that the court direct the EC for random verification of at least 50 per cent votes cast through EVMs using VVPAT per Assembly segment.
“A 50% randomised verification in each assembly constituency/assembly segment is a reasonable sample size to both (a) allay the fears of the general public with regard to EVM tampering and; (b) be a statistically significant sample size to ensure that EVMs are working properly,” the plea said.
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The plea said the apex court had in its 1975 judgment in Indira Nehru Gandhi vs Raj Narain held that free and fair elections were a part of the basic structure of the Constitution.
In Dr Subramanian Swamy vs Election Commission of India in 2013, the “paper trail for EVM has been held to be an indispensable requirement” for free and fair elections, “thereby making VVPAT inherent in and intrinsic to the very basic structure”, it pointed out.
It said that verification in only one randomly selected polling station “hits at the basic structure of the Constitution by making VVPAT completely ineffective and merely ornamental in nature as it translates to an actual check on less than 0.44% of EVMs in the country”.
“The said guideline, therefore, defeats the entire purpose of introducing VVPAT and renders the judgment and directions passed by this Hon’ble Court completely otiose,” the petitioners said.
The petitioners include Chandrababu Naidu of TDP, Sharad Pawar of NCP, Congress leader K C Venugopal, TMC leader Derek O’Brien, Sharad Yadav of Loktantrik Janata Dal, SP leader Akhilesh Yadav, Satish Chandra Mishra of the BSP, DMK leader M K Stalin, AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal of AAP and Farooq Abdullah of the National Congress.
They said that “despite their political differences”, they “are unanimous on the issue in question” and have joined hands, seeking the “reliefs in order to ensure free and fair elections”.