Election Commission rejected 21 Political parties demand and said the Supreme Court that increasing it to 50 per cent ‘shall enlarge the time required for counting to about six days.
The Election Commission has told it was in favour of continuing the existing system of random checking of VVPAT slips from one EVM per assembly segment for the Lok Sabha and assembly polls.
Also the Election Commission has told the Supreme Court that increasing it to 50 per cent “shall enlarge the time required for counting to about six days”.
The EC’s affidavit in court came in response to a petition by 21 political parties, which had sought directions to the poll body to randomly verify at least 50 per cent of electronic voting machines (EVMs) using voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) slips in the assembly and general elections starting next month.
Hearing the plea on March 25, a bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi told the EC that it “would like” the poll panel “to increase” the number of random VVPAT checks, and asked it to indicate whether any insurmountable difficulty will be caused if the court issues an order to this effect.
In its reply filed Friday, the EC explained the various measures associated with EVM and VVPAT, and said “the present system has been adopted after detailed study and consideration of all aspects, and bringing into play all safeguards and checks as have been felt necessary”.
It added that to alter the system “when polls are imminent and polling is to commence from April 11, 2019… might not be feasible”.
It said that in many assembly constituencies, there are more than 400 polling stations, and it will require about eight-nine days to complete the VVPAT slip count.
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There will also likely be demands for recount of the VVPAT slips, and this will further increase the time, the affidavit stated.
The Commission said it had engaged the Indian Statistical Institute to submit a report in view of demands from 21 political parties for VVPAT slip verification at least 50%
The report — authored by an expert committee comprising professor Abhay G Bhatt, Head, Indian Statistical Institute, Delhi Centre; professor Rajeeva L Karandikar, Director, Chennai Mathematical Institute; and Omkar Prosad Ghosh, Deputy Director General (Social Statistics Division), Central Statistics Office — was received on March 22.
Nominations to the panel had been made by the Director General, National Sample Survey Office (NSSO).
The report, the EC pointed out, said that “any further increase in the sample size of verification will lead to very negligible gain in the confidence level”.
The ISI report recommends that a sample verification of 479 EVMs and VVPATs out of a total 10.35 lakh machines would lift the confidence to 99.9936%.
But Deputy Election Commissioner Sudeep Jain, who has authored the affidavit, said the ECI’s sample verification for the April-May Lok Sabha polls would cover 4,125 EVMs and VVPATs. “This is 8.6 times the sample size recommended in the Indian Statistical Institute report,” the ECI said.
The Commission, represented by senior advocate Aryama Sundaram and advocate Amit Sharma, submitted that no mismatch had been detected in mock polls or in the verification of VVPAT slips carried out at 1,500 polling stations till date.
It also concluded that “adoption of a particular percentage as a sample for VVPAT slip verification is devoid of any scientific logic or statistical basis”.
The poll panel said that any manual count “is prone to human errors or deliberate mischief and any large-scale slip verification substantially compounds this likelihood of manual error and mischief in counting of votes”.
The EC also pointed out that similar demands for increasing the samples for VVPAT audit had been raised in the past too, and the court had been satisfied with its guidelines and manner of dealing with VVPATs, and had not been inclined to interfere.
It said that since the introduction of the VVPAT slip counts from May 2017, “1,500 polling stations over several general elections to the state legislatures as well as by-elections to the Lok Sabha and state assemblies have undergone VVPAT slip count wherein the tally matched completely, that is, no error was found”.