Verify allegations that BJP got extra votes in EVMs during mock polls: SC to ECI

Rally of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) supporters.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has instructed the Election Commission of India (ECI) to investigate allegations made by advocate Prashant Bhushan regarding four EVMs allegedly recording an extra vote for the BJP during a mock poll in Kasaragod, Kerala.

The directive came from a bench comprising Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta while reviewing a report on the EVM issue during hearings on petitions seeking comprehensive verification of votes cast via EVMs with Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT), as reported by Live Law.

The Supreme Court emphasised the importance of maintaining the sanctity of the electoral process, stressing that all necessary measures must be taken to address concerns raised.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan referred to a report in Manorama Online regarding complaints during mock polls in the Kasargod constituency, where both the Left Democratic Front (LDF) and the United Democratic Front (UDF) reported that four EVMs incorrectly registered additional votes for the BJP.

Additionally, the Supreme Court asked the ECI to clarify the functioning of EVM-VVPAT. The Election Commission explained that before placement in the strong room, all machines undergo mock polling in the presence of representatives from all political parties.

During the hearing, Advocate Nizham Pasha, representing one of the petitioners, suggested that voters should be allowed to keep the VVPAT slip after voting and deposit it in a ballot box. Responding to concerns about voter privacy, Pasha argued that voter privacy should not compromise voter rights.

Earlier, the Supreme Court had expressed skepticism about the practicality of physically counting votes given India’s large population. Advocate Prashant Bhushan advocated a return to ballot paper elections instead of relying solely on Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), but Justice Sanjiv Khanna referenced past experiences with ballot papers, suggesting that they were not without issues.

Moreover, the Supreme Court dismissed arguments from Bhushan, representing the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), regarding the preference for paper ballots in many European countries that had previously used EVMs.

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