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The Supreme Court today (Monday, March 25) asked the Election Commission (EC) to explain by March 28 why number of random Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) audits should not be extended to more than one polling station per assembly segment.

The Bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Deepak Gupta also hinted it was in favour of increasing VVPAT verification.

The EC has to file a reply by 4 pm on Thursday, March 28. The top court will hear the matter on April 1.

The Bench was hearing a plea by 21 political parties seeking direction to EC to randomly verify the VVPAT in at least 50 per cent of the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) during 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

CJI Gogoi asked an EC official – DeputyElection Commissioner (EVMs) Sudip Jain – whoappeared before his bench if the poll body can on its own increase the number of VVPAT’s that are randomly verified, adding “we would like you to increase”.

The EC official replied saying there was no requirement to increase the count and that it was taking periodic steps to strengthen the poll process. The bench expressed its dissatisfaction with the reply and asked why then the court had to intervene to introduce the VVPAT machines.

“If you were so confident, why did you not introduce the VVPAT system on your own? Why did you need a court order for the same? Do you know how much opposition court faced from ECI during the hearing on the introduction of VVPAT?” CJI Gogoi asked Jain.

CJI also told the EC official that “no institution including the judiciary should insulate itself from suggestions”.

The Court directed the Election Commission of India to file an affidavit setting out reasons as to why physical verification of VVPAT paper trail should not be extended to more than one polling station per assembly segment.

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