18 Apr 2024

VVPAT case: Supreme Court stresses integrity in electoral process

The Supreme Court emphasized the importance of sanctity in the electoral process during today's hearing in the VVPAT case. The court directed the Election Commission of India to elucidate the measures taken to ensure fair and transparent elections. 

Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta stressed the significance of maintaining integrity in the electoral process. They said every aspect should adhere to expected standards.

Petitions before the court seek cross-verification of votes cast via Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) with the paper slips generated by the VVPAT system. Senior Advocate Maninder Singh, representing the Election Commission, along with poll officials, were present to address the court's inquiries.

Advocate Nizam Pasha, representing one of the petitioners, proposed allowing voters to retain their VVPAT slips after casting their votes and placing them in a designated ballot box. Responding to concerns about privacy, Pasha argued that safeguarding voter rights should not be compromised by privacy considerations.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan advocated for keeping the light on the VVPAT machine illuminated throughout the voting process, suggesting that continuous illumination would enhance transparency without compromising privacy. Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde supported the call for a separate audit process to bolster confidence in the counting process.

Bhushan referenced a report on mock poll results in Kerala, where discrepancies were observed, prompting the court to seek clarification from Singh.

Rigorous checks are conducted before polling begins: EC

The Election Commission explained the voting process, stating that the VVPAT unit prints a paper slip upon command from the EVM's control unit. This slip remains visible to the voter for seven seconds before being deposited into a sealed box. The commission affirmed that rigorous checks are conducted before polling begins.

Regarding concerns about tampering, the commission clarified that the VVPAT printer does not contain software but stores symbols in flash memory. Symbol loading units are prepared for each constituency and are sealed until the conclusion of polling.

The commission assured the court that all voting machines undergo mock polls, with a percentage randomly selected for scrutiny. VVPAT slips are counted and matched on polling day, and awareness programs are conducted to educate voters on the verification process.

Responding to queries about post-voting slips, the commission expressed concerns about compromising vote secrecy and potential misuse outside polling booths.

Regarding the time-consuming nature of counting VVPAT paper slips, the commission explained that the thin, sticky paper is not designed for quick counting.

The VVPAT system allows voters to verify their votes, generating paper slips for potential dispute resolution. Amidst concerns about EVM voting, petitioners advocate for comprehensive cross-verification of all votes.

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