Sibal, Tankha to appear in petition calling for VVPAT machines in Gujarat Assembly elections

A writ petition has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking implementation of Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines and other regulations for the upcoming Gujarat Assembly polls.

The petition, filed by All India Congress Committee (AICC) Secretary Prakash Joshi, seeks directions from the Court to the Election Commission of India for framing appropriate rules, regulations and guidelines for the counting of VVPAT paper trails.

The plea was drawn by advocates Aljo Joseph and Varun Chopra, and settled by Senior Advocates Kapil Sibal and Vivek Tankha. It had come up for hearing yesterday before a Bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices Navin Sinha and DY Chandrachud.

The petitioner has submitted that the apex court, vide its order dated October 8, 2013, has already mandated the use of VVPAT machines for future elections. Further, in an all-party meeting convened by the Election Commission in May this year, it was stated that VVPAT machines would alone be used for upcoming Assembly elections.

The Election Commission had, in September 2014, also sent out instructions on the usage of EVMs with VVPAT. However, the petition states that the Commission is yet to issue orders or directions making it clear that the same instructions will be followed for the Gujarat Assembly elections, slated to be held later this year.

The petition further says that there is an apprehension that the same EVM machines used in the previous elections would be used in the upcoming elections, leaving room for doubt.

“It would not be out of place to mention there is some whisper in public domain that EVMs have been sent by the Election Commission for the forthcoming Gujarat Assembly elections are the same as used in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly Elections

The same machines will be used for the forthcoming elections with an addition of VVPAT, which further create doubts as to whether this entire process of election is dubious or not.”

In order to ensure free and fair elections, the petitioner has sought directions not to disturb the voters list without notice to the voter. It also seeks that the Election Commission does not employ any officials facing disciplinary action or on a contract basis. Further, it has been suggested that CCTV cameras be set up in polling booths to detect any foul play.

Other suggestions include increasing the visibility time of VVPAT paper trail from 7 seconds to 13 seconds, ensuring functioning of the VVPAT machines through random checks, making sure the paper trails are sealed in a box and preserved for at least 120 days, immediate recounting of votes if a candidate is not satisfied, and the usage of high quality thermal printers and thermal papers at polling booths.

The matter will now be heard on October 30.