VVPAT slips: SC grants one week to Opposition for filing reply

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today asked 21 Opposition leaders to file within a week their reply on the Election Commission’s affidavit on their plea regarding voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) slips in Lok Sabha polls.

The Opposition leaders, led by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu, had sought that VVPAT slips of at least 50 per cent of voting machines in each Assembly constituency be checked randomly during the Lok Sabha polls next month.

A bench, headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, asked senior advocate A M Singhvi, appearing for Opposition leaders, to file the reply by next Monday. The poll panel had Friday last sought dismissal of the petition. In its affidavit, the EC had asserted in the apex court that the Opposition leaders have been unable to raise any ground for altering the existing system of random counting of VVPAT slips from one polling booth per Assembly segment, which was ‘found to be most suitable’ after due studies and tests.

The affidavit stated that there are 400-plus polling booths in several constituencies which will take about eight/nine days for completing the process of counting VVPAT slips. There are also probability of recounting the slips that will further increase the time taken.

Singhvi said the demand for random verification was in the interest of free and fair polls to take place which is a part of the Indian Constitution.

MANPOWER SHORTAGE

The country does not have mechanical system to verify the slips that leads to consuming more time than required. To ease the process, senior advocate, C A Sundaram, in one of his earlier statements, said, “Intensive practice and training is needed for the personnel to carry out the process and there will be a situation to increase the number of substantial manpower. Additional VVPAT booths would need larger halls which is a problem in many parts of the country.”

The EC informed that the complicated process of counting 50 per cent of slips in all 10.35 lakh polling booths would not improve the reliability of the device.

Experts from Indian Statistical Institute, Chennai Mathematical Institute and NSSO’s social statistics division have been roped in to form a committee to analyse the demand put forth by political parties for increasing the sample size.

The Lok Sabha polls are scheduled to take place from 11 April to 19 May in seven phases in the country. On 23 May, counting of votes and declaration of results is scheduled to happen.

NT Bureau