The Supreme Court on Tuesday turned down a plea to increase the number of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) subject to random verification using Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) from five per Assembly constituency, as ordered by it on April 8.
“We are not inclined to modify our order,” a bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Deepak Gupta said, dismissing the petition filed by leaders of 21 political parties seeking a review of the April 8 order.
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Appearing for the petitioners, senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi said that the court, by increasing the random verification number from 1 to 5 by its April 8 order, had already accepted its contention that such an increase was a confidence-building measure.
The CJI then asked Singhvi, “How much counting do you want now?”
“We are happy with 33 per cent or 25 per cent,” replied Singhvi, adding “at least 25 per cent”.
However, the court did not agree and dismissed the prayer.
The petitioners, leaders of 21 political parties, said they were “constrained” to seek review of the order given by a bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna due to “certain subsequent developments that have taken place in the First Phase of polling held after the passing of the order… coupled with a few vital facts and crucial grounds”.
They said that percentage-wise, the April 8 order had increased the number of EVMs subject to random verification from 0.44 per cent to a “mere 2 per cent” and added this “will not make any substantial difference to the situation that existed prior to the passing of the impugned order”.
The petition said that “while passing the impugned order, this Hon’ble Court has categorically agreed that if the number of machines which are subjected to verification of paper trail can be increased to a ‘reasonable number’, it would lead to greater satisfaction amongst not only the political parties but the entire electorate of the country but has increased the said number only to 5 (five)”.
It added that the “increase from 01 (one) to 05 (five) is not a ‘reasonable number’ and does not lead to the satisfaction desired by” the court.
The petition contended that the court had “increased the number to a mere 5 (five) on grounds of ‘viability’ keeping in view the proximity of General Elections”.
The petitioners also said that in the first phase of General Elections, “number of EVMs and VVPATs across the country have been found to be defective/faulty. It has been reported that in some cases where voters would vote for one party, EVM would record their vote having been cast for another party. In constituencies where EVMs or VVPATs were found defective, polling had to be delayed and, in some cases, went in till wee hours of the morning.”
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah and Aam Aadmi Party MP Sanjay Singh, who were among the petitioners, were present in the court for the hearing on Tuesday.
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