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The Supreme Court (SC) today (Friday, March 15) issued notice to the Election Commission (EC) on a petition filed by 21 political parties seeking verification of through Voter Verifiable Paper Trail (VVPAT) of votes cast in at least 50 per cent of electronic voting machines (EVMs).

The notice was issued by a bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna who listed the Opposition’s plea to be next heard on March 25, asking the ECI to depute an officer to assist the court.

The opposition parties approached the Supreme Court after EC turned down their plea for mandatory verification of 50 per cent votes by paper trail (VVPAT) before announcing results in the Lok Sabha polls.

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The main petitioner in the case is Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu. Earlier, leaders from 21 political parties had met the Election Commission last month over the issue of alleged tampering of the EVMs.

The parties that have approached the court include the Congress, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party, Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party, Aam Aadmi Party, Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India, Derek O’Brien for the Trinamool Congress, Farooq Abdullah for the National Conference, the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Rashtriya Lok Dal, Sharad Yadav’s Loktantrik Janata Dal, and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.

The opposition party leaders had demanded that 50 per cent of counting of votes should be done through EVMs and the rest 50 per cent through VVPATs. They also said the results of the two should be cross-checked before declaration a candidate winner from a Lok Sabha seat.

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The EC, while announcing the poll schedule on March 10, said that while VVPAT will be used at all polling stations along with the EVMs in the Lok Sabha polls, mandatory checking of the EVMs and VVPAT will be done for one polling station in each Lok Sabha constituency. The selection of the VVPAT checking with the EVM records will done on the basis of randomly selected polling booth.

The petition challenges the EC’s decision to verify ballots cast at just one randomly selected booth in each constituency, saying this will tally only 0.44% of the votes. “This guideline defeats the entire purpose of VVPAT and makes it ‘ornamental’,” the plea said.

“A 50% randomised verification in each assembly constituency/assembly segment is a reasonable sample size to both (a) allay the fears of the general public with regard to EVM tampering and; (b) be a statistically significant sample size to ensure that EVMs are working properly,” the plea said.

The parties also want stricter standards and safety norms instituted to prevent tampering of electronic voting machines.

The poll body will use as many as 17.4 lakh VVPAT machines in the conduct of the Lok Sabha and simultaneous assembly elections. The Lok Sabha polls will be held in seven phases between April 11 and May 19. The votes will be counted on May 23.

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