SC Dismisses Kamal Nath's Plea For Random Verification Of VVPAT In MP Polls

SC Dismisses Kamal Nath

The Supreme Court has dismissed the petition filed by Congress leader Kamal Nath for random verification of Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail(VVPAT) machines in the upcoming Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh.

The SC did not find any loopholes in the existing mechanism of Election Commission of India, and declined interference.

Senior Congress leader Kamal Nath had moved the Supreme Court seeking random verification of Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines in the ensuing Assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh. Congress leader Sachin Pilot had also moved a similar plea. The petitions also sought furnishing of electoral rolls in word format, instead of scanned format in PDF, so as to enable search using 'CTRL+F' option.

Senior Counsel Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Kamal Nath, had submitted that there were around 60 lakh duplicate voters in poll-bound Madhya Pradesh, and furnishing of electoral roll in word format was necessary to verify authenticity.

On August 31, during the course of hearing, a bench of Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan had asked the Election Commission : “What is the problem in giving word document? If you can give in Rajasthan, why not in MP ? Take instructions and get back”, justice Sikri told the counsel for election commission.

However, today, the bench did not find that any judicial intervention was necessary with regard to arrangments made by ECI.

In his petition, Mr. Nath submitted that he, along with other senior leaders from the State, had submitted a representation to the Election Commission of India (ECI), highlighting 60 lakh duplicate, repeat, multiple, illegal, invalid, false etc. entries/voters in the electoral rolls of Madhya Pradesh for Assembly Elections, 2018.

He further submitted that recently, the ECI had dropped more than 24 lakh voters from the voter list published in January 2018 for the State of MP, and points out that there hasn’t been a corresponding increase in the number of voters vis-à-vis the State’s population. With such assertions, he demands that the voter list under Rules 22 (1) (c) of The Registration of Electors Rules, 1960 be prepared at least 30 days in advance from the date of election notification.

Mr. Nath then made reference to a judgment rendered by the Supreme Court in 2013, wherein it had directed usage of VVPAT machines for all forthcoming elections in a phased manner, and demands an overhaul of the operation of the machines. For instance, he  alleged a mass shortage of the requisite number of VVPATs, as well as the usage of same EVMs by transporting them from one place to another, contending,

“There are serious allegations with regard to the transportations of EVM’s and VVPAT’s form a different state. The election commission is not using any state machinery nor the central machinery for the transportation of the EVM’s. Private transporters are being used for the transportation of the EVM. It was proved in the past that they have no accountability for such machine nor for the safety of the same.”

Besides, he suggested increasing the visibility time of VVPAT paper trail from 7 seconds to 15 seconds, making sure the paper trails are sealed in a box and preserved for at least 120 days, immediate recounting of votes if a candidate is not satisfied, and using high-quality thermal printers and thermal papers at polling booths. He has also sought a direction to the ECI to not post in key positions, any such officials who are facing any disciplinary proceeding or inquiry.

In summation, Mr. Nath demanded the following directions:

  1. VVPAT verification at least 10% randomly selected polling stations in each assembly constituency/assembly segment to ensure free and fair elections.

  2. Publication of voter list in text format as per rules, and expeditious decision on all complaints qua final publication of voter list under Rules 22 (1) (c) of The Registration of Electors Rules, 1960.

  3. Prohibition on deletion of voters from the voter list without intimation to political parties.

  4. Issuance of fresh guidelines for operation of VVPAT machines, including those for VVPAT checks, mock polls and recounting, quality of Thermal Paper and printing, collection of Paper Trails and storage, unique identification numbers on VVPAT and paper trail collection boxes, transportation of EVMs and VVPAT before and after polls, First Level Checking (FLC) of VVPAT, and posting of officials.

(Story to be updated)