SC Seeks Clarity on Voter Access to VVPAT Slips as Poll Body Raises Concerns

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GG News Bureau
New Delhi, 18th April. 
The Supreme Court of India has sought detailed explanations from the Election Commission of India regarding the procedures in place to ensure the sanctity and transparency of the electoral process, especially concerning the Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) system.

In a hearing today, the bench of Justice Sanjiv Khanna and Justice Dipankar Datta emphasized the importance of maintaining trust in the electoral process and addressing any apprehensions regarding its integrity.

The court is currently reviewing petitions that advocate for cross-verification of votes cast on Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) with the paper slips generated by the VVPAT system. Senior Advocate Maninder Singh, representing the Election Commission, along with other poll officials, are present to respond to the court’s queries.

During the hearing, Advocate Nizam Pasha, representing one of the petitioners, argued that voters should be allowed to retain the VVPAT slip after casting their votes and deposit it in a ballot box to ensure transparency. However, concerns were raised about the potential impact on voter privacy.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan proposed that the light on the VVPAT machine should remain illuminated throughout the voting process to allow voters to witness the slip being generated. This suggestion aimed to address concerns about the secrecy of the vote while ensuring transparency.

Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde, also representing petitioners, called for a separate audit process to enhance the credibility of the counting process.

The Election Commission responded by explaining the current voting process, stating that the VVPAT unit prints a paper slip visible to the voter for seven seconds before it falls into a sealed box. The Commission emphasized that the voting machines undergo rigorous checks before polling and are secured in strongrooms with representatives of political parties present.

When questioned about the possibility of voters receiving a slip after voting, the Election Commission expressed concerns about compromising the secrecy of the vote and the potential misuse of the slips outside the polling booth.

The court raised questions about the time-consuming nature of counting VVPAT paper slips and whether machines could expedite this process. The Election Commission explained that the paper used for the slips is not suitable for counting due to its thin and sticky nature.

Overall, the court emphasized the need for transparency and trust in the electoral process while urging the Election Commission to bridge any gaps between public perception and official explanations. The Commission assured the court of its commitment to transparency and proposed updating frequently asked questions (FAQs) to address concerns.

The hearing also addressed the significance of the VVPAT system in providing transparency and accountability in elections, especially amid concerns raised by the Opposition regarding the EVM voting system.

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