Matching EVMs with VVPATs: SC hits out at EC

The Supreme Court on Monday lashed out at the Election Commission for insisting that there was no need for increasing the sample matching of the EVMs with the corresponding Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trails (VVPATs), saying that no institution could insulate itself from suggestion for improvement.

At present VVPATA is matched with the correspondingA EVM at one polling booth in each of the assembly segments of the Lok Sabha constituency.

“No institution, including judiciary, can insulate itself from suggestion for improvement,” said the Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi sitting with Justice Deepak Gupta, taking exception to poll panel’s Deputy Commissioner Sudeep Jain resisting the suggestion for increasing the number of sample matching of VVPATs with corresponding EVMs.

“If you are so up-to-date with protocols and processes,” Chief Justice Gogoi said, “then, why did not Election Commission introduce VVPAT on its own and brought it only after the court’s orders?”

The top court by its October 8, 2013, verdict had said that Electronic Voting Machines with Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail was an indispensable requirement for free and fair elections as it ensures the accuracy of the voting system.

Reminding the EC that VVPATs were introduced on the directions of the top court, CJI Gogoi sought to recall the opposition the court faced from the poll panel on the necessity of VVPAT.

At the outset of the hearing, CJI Gogoi asked Sudeep Jain: “Can you increase the sample matching? We would like to increase it.”

As Deputy Election Commissioner sought to refer to the aspersion being cast, CJI Gogoi said, “It is not a question of aspersion, it is a question of satisfaction.”

The top court directed the EC to state the basis of its satisfaction that there was no need for increasing the sample matching of EVMs with VVPATs.

Besides this, the bench asked the Election Commission to spell out the difficulty if sample tallying was to be increased and the time required in meeting that.

As senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi said that it would not take more than five hours, CJI Gogoi told him that they want response from the EC.

Singhvi said that they have undertaken the exercise.

The top court had on March 15 sought the Election Commission’s response on a plea by 21 opposition parties seeking audit of at least 50 per cent of EVMs with corresponding VVPATs.

The plea has been filed, among others, by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu of the Telugu Desam Party, Sharad Pawar of the Nationalist Congress Party, Farooq Abdullah of the National Conference, Sharad Yadav of the Loktantrik Janata Dal, Arvind Kejriwal of the Aam Aadmi Party, Akhilesh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party, Derek O’Brien of the Trinamool Congress and M.K. Stalin of the DMK.

In the plea, they urged the court that 50 per cent of results of EVMs must be matched and cross-checked with VVPATs before the declaration of results in the general election.