New Dehli: The Congress wants at least 10 to 15% of all votes cast in elections to be tallied with the voter verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) for which machines have been installed with all EVMs by the Election Commission, senior party leader and spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said on Friday.
Singhvi had earlier in the day appeared in the Supreme Court, along with another senior Congress advocate-leader Kapil Sibal, to press for the demand that the Election Commission be directed to cross verify at least 25% of VVPAT with votes cast with the EVMs. The court, however, ultimately refused to hear the plea.
Later. addressing the media at the All India Congress Committee headquarters, Singhvi said, “We we are not against EVMs per se but we want that now that you have VVPAT with all machines, the sampling of voting on EVMs with the VVPAt trail be done in at least 10-15% cases if not 25%.”
Expressing gratitude towards the apex court, he said that it had been a very sympathetic hearing by the SC for over 45 minutes. “The court allowed us to withdraw the appeal and filed a comprehensive one later which we would surely do.”
Singhvi said the appeal on behalf of the petitioner, a Congress leader, was that while the Election Commission has recognised the legitimate apprehensions of matching voting on EVM with the VVPAT trail, it had itself negated that apprehension by saying that in only one booth in every constituency the paper trail be matched. Stating that there are close to 400-450 such EVMs deployed in every constituency, he said this made no sense.
Congress to file detailed election petition now
The apex court had while hearing the arguments of the two Congress advocates noted that it found no merit in the plea. It suggested that Gujarat Congress should approach it by filing a writ petition on electoral reforms and held that the electoral process in a democracy is of utmost importance and that it cannot interfere only to allay the apprehension of a party.
Singhvi said not only would the Congress soon filed a “new election petition”, as suggested by the apex court, it would also “remain at the forefront of protecting the basic structure of the Constitution”.
He remained that it was “because of our campaign that the government was forced to give the assurance that they would release over Rs 4,000 crore for providing VVPAT machines along with all the EVMs.”
Examination of seized EVMs in Uttarakhand may offer a solution
Meanwhile, some Congress leaders from Uttarakhand have suggested that in order to allay the apprehensions in the minds of the electorate and the political parties the EVM machines seized in Uttarakhand following the assembly elections earlier this year be put to a rigorous test under the supervision of the High Court by an expert committee comprising eminent persons.
The Wire had earlier reported how responses to queries filed by the petitioners using the Right to Information Act had raised serious questions about security and handling of EVMs.
Stating that the question of EVM tampering is bound to arise again in Gujarat, Singhvi and Sibal said that since in that state some EVMs have already been seized on court orders, these may be examined by a panel comprising of eminent persons such as principal scientific officers, former prime ministers,the chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission or prominent scientists nominatined by the ruling and opposition parties.
What may be done and how
The party activists also have suggested that the panel can then verify whether the ID numbers of the chip, motherboard and display board match with that of the official record; whether the display unit has been changed into Bluetooth-enabled display; whether the ID of machine used matches the ID of machine allotted to a booth after randomisation; whether EVMs can been accessed by unauthorised persons when they are stored in government ‘maal khaana‘ (store room); and whether the connecting cable of display unit and control unit is bonafide.
Instead of making wild allegations, they said that political parties should also demand a time-bound investigation of the seized EVMs. “It is the credibility of the election process that needs to be protected equally from the possibilities of fraud and damage from unsubstantiated propaganda,” they said.