Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Assembly Election Results: Supreme Court refuses urgent listing of plea seeking VVPAT counting first

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday afternoon decided not to give urgent listing for tomorrow to hear a plea seeking Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) verification at the beginning of counting of EVM votes instead of doing so after the counting. Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana said let the established practice of counting go on.

Earlier in the day, the CJI had wondered why the petition had been filed so late and had agreed to hear for an urgent listing. This afternoon, the Election Commission counsel said the election officers are already following a 2019 SC order on VVPAT and that the petition was not maintainable.

Senior Advocate Meenakshi Arora had mentioned the matter before the bench of CJI Ramana, Justices A.S. Bopanna and Hima Kohli this morning for urgent listing. She submitted that verifying VVPAT after the counting is over is pointless and as per the directions issued by the Court earlier, it should be followed by the Election Commission of India. She said counting should be done by election agents before the counting of votes.

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The CJI asked why she had mentioned the matter today as it could have been done before. “Now, the counting is to be held on March 10. Even if we hear this, can we pass such a direction?”

Arora replied that Election Commission of India can be asked to follow the direction. The bench agreed to hear the matter on March 9, 2022.

The petition was filed in the Supreme Court seeking an increase in randomly selected polling stations for the purpose of mandatory verification of VVPAT paper slips in each Assembly Constituency/Segment.

The petition was drafted by Advocate Raj Kumar and was filed by Advocate Binay Kumar Das.

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RTI activist Rakesh Kumar sought strict compliance with the Supreme Court direction in N. Chandrababu Naidu & Ors v Union of India and Anr, wherein guidelines were issued for mandatory verification of VVPAT slips out of five randomly selected polling stations after completing final round of counting votes recorded in EVMs.

Relief was sought for increasing the number of randomly selected Polling stations from 5 to 25 and/or proportionately in each Assembly Constituency/Segment.

The petition stated that this would ensure transparency in counting votes during elections. Also, it would give greater satisfaction to society and would increase faith in the system of voting.

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Kumar contended that when the candidates or their agents come to know about the outcome of election during last round of counting votes, they do not wait for counting VVPAT slips of the randomly selected polling stations.

The plea stated that the election process is the execution of free speech of the voters for selecting their prospective Government. However, the lacunae in the process of counting votes that is the VVPAT paper slips prejudices their fundamental right of free speech and causes grave injury to the citizens of India.

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