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"There has to be sanctity," SC to election body in VVPAT case

There has to be sanctity, SC to election body in VVPAT case

New Delhi: The Supreme Court of India told the Election Commission of India today that there has to be sanctity in the electoral process and asked that it provide a detailed account of the procedures taken to guarantee free and fair elections. "This is (an) electoral process. There has to be sanctity. Let nobody have apprehension that something which is expected is not being done," the bench of Justice Sanjiv Khanna and Justice Dipankar Datta said.

Cross-verification of votes cast on Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) with paper slips produced by the VVPAT system is being considered by the court in response to petitions. The election body's lawyer, Senior Advocate Maninder Singh, is present in court to address the queries, NDTV reported.

Advocate Nizam Pasha stated during his appearance on behalf of one of the petitioners that a voter ought to be permitted to take the VVPAT slip following their vote and place it in a ballot box. Justice Khanna questioned Mr Pasha about whether the procedure wouldn't violate voters' private rights. He answered, "Voter privacy cannot be used to defeat voter's rights."

Advocate Prashant Bhushan stated that the light on the VVPAT machine should remain on at all times adding that it stays on for about 7 seconds. "One possible solution is if they can't change glass at this stage, at least the light should remain on at all times so I can see the slip cutting and falling. No privacy will be compromised."

Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde, who was representing the petitioners as well, stated that a separate audit was necessary to give the counting procedure more credibility.

Mr Bhushan referenced a report on Kerala's mock poll results, which showed that the BJP had received extra votes. Mr Singh was requested to explain this to the court.

The poll body's lawyer described the voting procedure by stating that the VVPAT unit prints its paper slip at the behest of the EVM control unit. According to Mr Singh, the voter can see this slip for seven seconds before it drops into a sealed box. He also mentioned that engineers inspect the equipment before polling.

The poll body responded negatively when the court inquired about whether the printer had any software. "There is a 4-megabyte flash memory in every PAT which stores symbols," he said.

"Returning officer prepares electronic ballot, which is loaded into symbol loading unit. It will give serial no., name of candidate and symbol. Nothing is preloaded. It's not data, it's image format," he said.

When the court asked how many Symbol Loading Units are created for the polling, the poll body replied, "Normally one in a constituency. It's in custody of Returning Officer till conclusion of poll."

The Election Commission responded that there isn't presently a procedure in place for sealing this unit to prevent tampering when the court questioned whether it is.

Voters can verify if their vote was correctly cast and went to the candidate they prefer by using the Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail, or VVPAT. The VVPAT generates a paper slip that is kept in a sealed cover and can be opened if there is a dispute. In each Assembly segment, five randomly chosen EVMs' VVPAT slips are now verified. Cross-verification of each vote is demanded in the petitions amid concerns and queries from the Opposition over the electronic voting machine technology.

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TAGS:Lok sabha elections 2024VVPAT
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