What are VVPAT slips & what is the INDIA bloc’s demand on this as polls loom?


The Supreme Court has issued a notice to the Election Commission of India regarding the plea demanding complete counting of Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) paper slips in elections.

In the existing practice, only five randomly selected EVMs in each assembly segment of a Lok Sabha seat are verified through counting of Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) paper slips.

INDIA bloc’s demand

The Congress party hailed the notice as an “important first step” and said the matter should be decided before the Lok Sabha elections 2024 begin.

Opposition parties in the INDIA bloc have been demanding complete (100 per cent) counting of VVPATs to increase public confidence in Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and to ensure the integrity of the electoral process. The opposition alleges that the poll panel had refused to meet a delegation of party leaders from INDIA bloc on this issue.

The latest petition

In its order on April 1, a bench of Justices BR Gavai and Sandeep Mehta sought a response from the poll panel and Union government. The petition was filed by Karnataka-based lawyer- activist Arun Kumar Agrawal through advocate Neha Rathi.

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The petition sought inter-alia counting of all VVPAT paper slips in polls. While pronouncing the order, the bench tagged the petition with another plea filed by election watchdog, Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR). Earlier, the poll panel had cited practical difficulties in verifying all VVPATs in the ADR petition.

“If simultaneous verification is done and more number of officers are deployed for counting in each assembly constituency, then complete VVPAT verification can be done in matter of 5-6 hours,” the petition said.

It said that the government has spent 5000 crores on the purchase of 24 lakh VVPATs, but VVPAT slips of only 20,000 VVPATs are verified. The petitioner also said that questions are being raised by experts with regard to VVPATs and EVMs and the fact that large number of discrepancies between EVM and VVPAT vote count have been reported in the past.

Blast from the past

This is not the first time that the matter has reached top court. On April 8, 2019, the Supreme Court asked the poll panel to increase the number of EVMs that undergo VVPAT physical verification from one to five per assembly segment in a parliamentary constituency.

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On May 21, 2019 the Supreme Court had dismissed a writ petition seeking 100 per cent counting of VVPAT in the Lok Sabha polls. The result of Lok Sabha Elections 2019 was announced on two days later.

Earlier in the same month, the top court had dismissed the review petition filed by 21 opposition parties to increase verification of VVPAT-EVM to 50 per cent.

What is a VVPAT?

Introduced first time in India in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, VVPAT or the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail is basically a ballot-less vote verification system connected with the EVM.

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The VVPAT generates a paper slip to be viewed by the voter and allows him/her to verify whether the vote was cast correctly on the EVM. The slip contains the name and symbol of the party they have voted for.

The machine also has a transparent window for the voter to see the printed slip. Eventually, the slip goes inside a sealed box of the machine. This can, however, be opened if there is a dispute.

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Published: 02 Apr 2024, 01:31 PM IST


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