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Twenty-one opposition parties have once again approached the Supreme Court, asking it to review the order on counting of voter slips of only five EVM machines in every assembly segment. The parties have reiterated their demand that at least 50 per cent of the voter-verifiable paper trail (VVPAT) slips be cross-checked.

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu said the review petition has been filed as democracy cannot be left at the mercy of some EVM programmers. Earlier this month, the the Election Commission  had increased the the random sampling of VVPAT slips from one booth per assembly segment to five booths  on the directions of the apex court. That was a partial victory for the joint plea by 21 opposition parties that had demanded more VVPAT counting. “This will be greater satisfaction to not only political parties but voters also,” the bench of CJI Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta, Sanjeev Khanna had then said. The bench said: “If the number of EVMs in respect of which the VVPAT is subject to physical scrutiny is increased from 1 to 5 the process of verification can be done by the same team. The number of EVMs would be 5 per constituency. We direct that the process of random selection would now apply to all the 5 machines which have been directed.  We express our reluctance to provide our view with respect  to the integrity of EVMs.”

21 different political parties had petitioned the court to direct the EC for random verification of at least 50% of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) using the VVPAT in every assembly segment or assembly constituency.The controversy over the EVMS has been continuing since the assembly elections in early 2017, when the BJP won a massive victory in Uttar Pradesh. Mayawati and the Congress alleged that the voting machines had been tampered with on behalf of the BJP. Arvind Kejriwal, who party lost to the Congress in Punjab, had come up with similar elections.None of the parties, however, turned up last year when the Election Commission challenged anyone to hack into the voting machines.

The Election Commission had previously told the court that election results would be delayed by five days if 50 per cent of VVPAT slips in every assembly segment is counted, following which the SC had asked the poll panel to increasing verification from one VVPAT machine to five, so the delay would be marginal.

“Our battle is to strengthen the democratic process. We have filed a review petition in the Supreme Court with a plea that 50% VVPAT slips must be counted and in case of discrepancy in the count of EVM and VVPAT slips, the result for slips should be upheld,” Naidu said at a press conference.

EVM glitches have marred the Lok Sabha election process in the first three phases of voting held till now. While polling in Andhra Pradesh continued till well past midnight on April 11 due to malfunctioning machines, over 300 faulty EVMs had to be replaced in Rampur in UP on Tuesday.

VVPATs are being used for the first time in a Lok Sabha election after they were first used in the Assembly Elections last year.

Naidu said instances of EVMs malfunctioning and selective manipulation of the machines were reported in the polling held on Tuesday in Kerala, Goa and Uttar Pradesh.

–India Legal Bureau

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