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  India   All India  16 Dec 2017  Supreme Court refuses Cong’s plea for counting of VVPAT slips

Supreme Court refuses Cong’s plea for counting of VVPAT slips

THE ASIAN AGE. | J VENKATESAN
Published : Dec 16, 2017, 1:32 am IST
Updated : Dec 16, 2017, 4:00 am IST

The bench told the petitioner that a fresh petition seeking reforms in the polling process could be filed independently.

Supreme Court of India. (Photo: PTI)
 Supreme Court of India. (Photo: PTI)

New Delhi: Ahead of counting of votes for Gujarat Assembly polls on Monday, the Supreme Court on Friday declined to entertain a petition filed by a Gujarat Congress leader seeking counting of at least 20 per cent of the slips of Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines with the votes polled in EVMs in the just-concluded elections.

A three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, told senior counsel Abhishek Singhvi, appearing for the petitioner, that it can not issue such a direction to the Election Commission unless the petitioner demonstrated that the existing decision of the poll panel to restrict the EVM- VVPAT paper trail counting to one booth per constituency is proved “arbitrary”, “illegal” or “malafide”.

 

Gujarat followed Himachal and Goa to use VVPAT, attached to the EVM, for dispensing a paper proof for the voters so that they can verify if their vote is cast correctly. The paper trail was used in all the 50,128 polling booths in Gujarat in the two-phased election, the results for which will be known on December 18.

The bench, including and Justices A.M. Kanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud, permitted petitioner Mohammad Arif Rajput, Gujarat Congress secretary, to withdraw the special leave petition against a Gujarat high court order refusing to intervene.

The bench told the petitioner that a fresh petition seeking reforms in the polling process could be filed independently.

 

The petitioner earlier questioned the discretionary power of a returning officer, who is entitled to refuse counting of the paper slips from VVPAT machines. The bench said that no advance ruling could be given in the matter and in case of any dispute over the result of the poll; the challenge can be made by way of an election petition.

Mr Singhvi said that to allay apprehensions the court should direct the EC to count Verifiable Paper Audit Trail slips in at least 20 per cent of the EVMs use in Gujarat.

Justice Chandrachud said, "The election process is now over. How can the court substitute its decision with the action of the EC? Under Section 56 of the Representation of People Act the returning officer can use his discretion to order counting of VVPAT slips and it is clearly within the jurisdiction of the EC. We can't supplant the decision of the EC unless the decision is arbitrary or in breach of law."

 

Tags: gujarat assembly polls, supreme court, vvpat machines
Location: India, Delhi, New Delhi