The Supreme Court today agreed to hear next week a plea of senior Congress leader Kamal Nath seeking random verification of Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines in the upcoming Madhya Pradesh assembly polls.
A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud considered the submission of lawyer Varun Chopra that the plea be listed for urgent hearing and said that it would come up next week.
The leader, in his plea, has sought a direction to the Election Commission to randomly verify VVPAT slips with EVM votes at 10 per cent of polling stations in every constituency.
Senior advocate and Rajya Sabha MP Vivek Tankha said that the plea has also sought a direction to the poll panel to publish the voter list in "text format as per rules" and to expeditiously decide all complaints before final publication of the voter list.
"Issue an appropriate writ, order or direction to the Respondents (Election Commission) to issue directions for conducting VVPAT verification at least 10 per cent randomly selected polling stations in each assembly constituency/ assembly segment to ensure free and fair elections," the plea said.
It also said the display time for the VVPAT slip for the voters should be 15 seconds instead of the current seven seconds
"Because paper trail coming out of VVPAT is only visible for seven seconds. Therefore, majority of voters, who are not well versed with technology will not be able to look to the paper trail and confirm if the VVPAT is showing the correct slip.
"In the absence of any empirical study on each state with regard to the capability of voter to identify the votes cast, the time fixed by the ECI for display as seven seconds (7 sec) is arbitrary and must be increased to a reasonable time ie. fifteen seconds (15 sec)," the plea said.
It has asked the court to issue a direction to the poll panel to prohibit deletion of voters from the voter list without intimation to all political parties.
The Congress leader, in his plea, pointed out that recently the EC has dropped more than 24 lakhs voters from the voter list published in January 2018 for Madhya Pradesh and "it would not be out of place to mention that the Respondents (ECI) have admitted 2,37,234 photo entries found to be suspicious/ unclear/blank photos".
He said unless such unique identification serial number was given to identify the ballot box and the voting machine, chances of manipulation were very high, adding that, in order to prevent any kind of manipulation Unique Identification Serial Number has to be made mandatory for all EVMs with VVPATs.
He also alleged various lapses in transferring of machines before and after the polls and pointed out an incident on May 29 this year after bye-polls at Palghar Lok Sabha constituency in Maharashtra when two election officers were caught transporting EVMs in a private car.
"No clear instructions regarding and secured transportation of EVMs before and after polling has been prescribed till date. Without a protocol and standard procedure for the same, such incidents can vitiate the entire process of elections," the Congress leader said.
Madhya Pradesh is ruled by the BJP since 2003 and Shivraj Singh Chouhan is the current chief minister.
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