Twenty-one opposition parties, led by Andhra Pradesh CM Chandrababu Naidu have submitted their rejoinder before the Supreme Court of India stating that 50% verification of VVPAT units against EVM machines in each constituency/segment will raise the level of public confidence in the integrity of electoral process in the country.
These parties are petitioners in a PIL filed under Article 32 of the constitution. Out of the 21, 6 national parties and 15 regional parties are petitioners.
Election Commission had submitted before the Supreme Court that 50% verification of VVPAT machines would lead to a delay of 6 days in the declaration of election results. In its affidavit, EC stated- “It is therefore submitted 50% VVPAT slip verification in each assembly segment of a Parliamentary Constituency or Assembly Constituency on an average shall enlarge the time required for counting to about 6 days. It is also relevant to mention that in many Assembly Constituencies, there are more than 400 polling stations, which will require about 8-9 days to complete the VVPAT slip count.”
Petitioners stated that they were not questioning the E or integrity of EVMs but the purpose of the said litigation was to raise the issue of public confidence of integrity in the electoral process. After a long-drawn struggle spreading across many years, India has been able to achieve 100% VVPAT coverage for all EVMs in Parliament and State assembly elections with the intervention of Supreme Court. Once it has been introduced, it must be used effectively so as to achieve purpose for which it was introduced, the petitioners submitted.
Petitioners also questioned the EC’s estimation of 6 days delay in election results if 50% verification is to be achieved. At present only person is responsible for one constituency as that is sufficient to count VVPAT slips of one EVM. However, the petitioners argued that if manpower is increased, 50% verification can be achieved in 3 days.
An illustration to this effect is also a part of the affidavit. Counter-affidavit filed by the petitioners refers to EC’s report resisting an increase in percentage of verified VVPAT machines against EVMs and states- “In the said table, the ISI assumes, that because the entire election is one homogenous event, 479 randomly selected VVPATs across the entire country are sufficient to presume with greater than 99.99% confidence level that election was free and fair.
To decide sample size based on population, each Assembly constituency or segment must be considered as a separate unit; the entire country cannot be treated as one single unit. This is because as explained above, election is not a single homogeneous event but election to each constituency is a separate event. If each Assembly constituency or Segment (each consisting of 500 to 1000 polling booths) is treated as a separate unit, the required sample size will be in the range of 300-400, which translates into an average of 50%, the range being prayed for in the petition.”
The petitioners also stated that the current guidelines amount to taking away from the left hand what was given by the right hand and reduce safeguards in contravention of purpose of Supreme Court judgments.