VOTER VERIFIED PAPER AUDIT TRAIL (VVPAT) (CASE NOTES)



VOTER VERIFIED PAPER AUDIT TRAIL (VVPAT)

N Chandrababu Naidu v Union of India

Judges: Sanjiv Khanna, Deepak Gupta, Ranjan Gogoi

WP (C) No. 273/2019

 

In February 2019, the then Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Mr. Chandrababu Naidu and variety of other political leaders, approached the Supreme Court to direct the election commission (EC) to match a greater number of Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips. VVPAT is an independent vote verification system, which allows a voter to ascertain whether their vote was cast correctly. VVPAT generates a paper slip that the voter can view -- the paper slip is kept in a sealed cover, which may be opened just in case a dispute arises.

Thus, the main issue before the Hon’ble SC was that,

How many EVMs must be installed with VVPAT systems so as to make sure free and fair elections?

The petitioners wanted the EC to physically verify a higher number of VVPAT slips.

Mr. Naidu, in his petition had requested the Court to issue the subsequent orders:

1.         Direct the EC to verify 50% of VVPAT slips in each Assembly Segment/Constituency.

2.         Quash the EC guideline stating that just one randomly selected polling place in each Assembly Segment/Constituency will undergo verification of VVPAT slips (guideline 16.6 within the Manual on Electronic voting machine and VVPAT)

EVMs are utilized in all 543 Parliamentary Constituencies since 2004. In August, 2013 the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961 were amended to permit the EC to use EVMs with VVPATs.  In 2013, the Supreme Court directed the EC to introduce VVPAT in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

In response to the petition, the EC filed an affidavit, submitting that if 50% VVPAT slips were double-counted, this could delay the announcement of results by a minimum of 6 days.

On 8th April 2019, the Supreme Court ordered the EC to increase the number of booths that undergo VVPAT physical verification. It increased the number of booths per Assembly Segment from 1 to five booths.

On 7th May 2018, the Court briefly heard the review petitions challenging its 8th April order. The petitioners emphasised that physical verification in 5 booths per Segment is that the equivalent of around 2% verification. that they had pleaded for 50% verification.

The Court declined to change its 8th April order.