India

VVPAT Verification Slips After Voting: What The Supreme Court Said

By
OB Bureau

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday called for sanctity to be maintained in the electoral process while asking the Election Commission to explain in detail the steps of cross-verifying Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips with Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).

A bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta was hearing a batch of pleas seeking complete cross-verification of the votes cast using EVMs with VVPAT, an independent vote verification system, which enables an elector to see whether his or her vote was cast correctly. At present, VVPAT verification is done only in five randomly selected EVMs in each assembly segment.

During the hearing, advocate Nizam Pasha, appearing for one of the petitioners in the case, said the voter should be able to take the VVPAT slip after voting, according to reports. Justice Dutta said, “This is an electoral process. There has to be sanctity. Let nobody have apprehension that something which is expected is not being done.”

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), said the glass of the VVPAT machine, which is currently black, should be transparent. He also stressed that the light (currently on for just seven seconds) should be on for a long time so that a voter can see the VVPAT slip going into the box after casting the vote, according to India Today.

When the court asked the poll body whether VVPAT was a printer, the Election Commission said, “Yes. After loading, VVPAT is given the command to print, to ensure correct symbols are loaded. The returning officer and candidates sign (on it).”

Responding to another query on whether the programme memory can be tampered with or if a candidate objects to the software manufacturing, the bench said that the memory cannot be altered.

The Election Commission underlined that all EVMs undergo mock drills before being deployed for elections and that candidates are allowed to randomly pick up 5 per cent of the machines. The poll body said that the process is repeated on the voting day.

Explaining further about the VVPAT slip testing, the poll body said, “Mock polls take place on polling day as well. VVPAT slips are taken out, counted and matched. All machines have different kinds of paper seals. At the time when the machine arrives for counting, the seal number can be checked.”

On the mock drill, Bhushan cited a media report on the complaints raised regarding the mock polls conducted in Kerala’s Kasargod. The report mentioned that the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) in Kerala and the United Democratic Front (UDF) lodged complaints with the district collector that four EVMs had erroneously registered extra votes in favour of the BJP.

 

“There was a mock poll in Kasargod, Kerala. Four EVMs and VVPATs were recording one extra vote for BJP,” Bhushan said, citing the report, following which the Supreme Court asked the Election Commission to look into the issue.

When the court asked the poll body whether VVPAT was a printer, the Election Commission said, “Yes. After loading, VVPAT is given the command to print, to ensure correct symbols are loaded. The returning officer and candidates sign (on it).”

OB Bureau

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