The Supreme Court reserved its judgment on Thursday on the pleas related to Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips, emphasizing the need to maintain the sanctity of the electoral process.

A bench comprising Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta directed the Election Commission of India (ECI) to provide detailed explanations about the measures taken to ensure free and fair elections. The court’s observation came during the hearing of petitions seeking cross-verification of votes cast on EVMs with VVPAT paper slips.

Advocates representing the petitioners, including Nizam Pasha and Prashant Bhushan, argued for greater transparency and voter confidence in the electoral process. Pasha suggested that voters should be allowed to deposit VVPAT slips in a separate ballot box after voting. Bhushan called for the VVPAT machine’s light to remain on continuously, ensuring transparency without compromising voter privacy.

During the proceedings, allegations were raised regarding extra votes recorded for the BJP during mock polls in Kerala’s Kasargod constituency. Advocate Bhushan cited a report by Manorama Online, prompting the court to direct the ECI to investigate the matter.

The ECI, represented by Senior Advocate Maninder Singh, provided insights into the voting process, asserting that the EVMs and VVPAT units undergo rigorous checks and that there are no preloaded data or software in the VVPAT printer. The Commission also clarified that the VVPAT paper slips, once viewed by the voter for seven seconds, are dropped into a sealed box to maintain secrecy.

Responding to concerns about the counting of VVPAT slips, the ECI stated that the paper’s thin and sticky nature makes it unsuitable for manual counting. The court expressed a need to bridge the gap between the Commission’s explanations and public perceptions, emphasizing the importance of maintaining voter trust.

The Election Commission defended the current voting system, dismissing calls for a return to paper ballots as a “retrograde suggestion.” The court acknowledged the ECI’s efforts but stressed the importance of addressing public concerns to ensure the integrity of the electoral process.

After hearing arguments from both sides, the Supreme Court reserved its order on the matter, urging the petitioners to trust the explanations provided by the ECI. The bench noted that while concerns should be addressed, not everything should be viewed with suspicion.

The hearing continues, with the court expected to deliver its verdict soon.

MTNews Desk

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