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Posted at: Oct 12, 2018, 11:12 AM; last updated: Oct 12, 2018, 10:44 PM (IST)

SC dismisses Congress leaders' plea for VVPAT machines verification

SC dismisses Congress leaders' plea for VVPAT machines verification
Madhya Pradesh Congress leader Kamal Nath had contended that there were 60 lakh duplicate voters on the electoral rolls of the state. Triibune file

Satya Prakash
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, October 12

In a setback to the Congress, the Supreme Court on Friday dismissed petitions by its leaders Kamal Nath and Sachin Pilot for random verification of Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines linked to EVMs in the ensuing assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

Madhya Pradesh Congress leader Kamal Nath had contended that there were 60 lakh duplicate voters on the electoral rolls of the state.

Similarly, Rajasthan Congress leader Sachin Pilot had alleged that there were almost 41 lakh fake voters in his state.

A Bench headed by Justice AK Sikri said there were no loopholes in the EC mechanism.

The Bench also dismissed the Congress leaders’ plea to provide them voter list in word format. The Election Commission had given the voter list in PDF format.

The Congress and the Election Commission had on Monday sparred in the court after the two Congress leaders alleged duplication of names in the voter lists for the upcoming assembly polls.

Kamal Nath and Sachin Pilot were represented by senior advocate Kapil Sibal while senior advocate Vikas Singh had contested their claims on behalf of the Election Commission.

Singh had said attempts were being made to malign an important constitutional institution like the Election Commission and get favourable order by fabricating documents by alleging discrepancies in voter lists.

“I stand by what I had said earlier,” Singh had said, adding that the poll panel had taken note of the allegations of the Congress and undertaken corrective measures with regard to discrepancies in the voter list which was evident from the EC’s communication of June 8 this year.

Despite this, the Congress party alleged discrepancies in their petition in September and this was a clear attempt to malign the institution, he had said, adding that the leaders had “casually filed something” to “malign” and “denigrate” the poll panel.

Observing that free and fair poll is the “essence of democracy”, Sibal strongly rebutted the submissions of the poll panel and referred to alleged discrepancies and duplication in the voter list, giving illustrations of four assembly constituencies in Madhya Pradesh.

Giving an illustration, Sibal said 36 voters had different details, but their photographs are the same and this assumed significance against the backdrop of 60 lakh fake voters having been found in Madhya Pradesh alone. Also, 24 lakh names had been deleted from the list by the poll panel, he alleged.

The plea filed by Nath through advocate Varun Chopra said directions should be issued to publish the voter list in a “text format as per rules”, instead of the PDF format and expeditious decisions be taken on all complaints before its final publication.

Nath said a direction should be issued to the poll panel to randomly verify VVPAT slips with Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) votes at 10 per cent of randomly selected polling stations in every constituency.

On September 18, the poll panel in its affidavit justified providing the draft electoral rolls in PDF format in Madhya Pradesh without any pictures of voters saying it was done to prevent manipulation of the electors’ data.

It had sought dismissal of the petition filed by Nath alleging duplication of names in the voter list as
“not maintainable”, “completely frivolous” and “an abuse of the process of court”.

Earlier, the top court had agreed to examine the pleas of Nath and Pilot and had sought response of the ECI and state poll panels of the Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

It was alleged that as per a survey, in Madhya Pradesh there were over 60 lakh fake voters and similarly, in Rajasthan, there were over 41 lakh duplicate voters.

In Rajasthan, the poll panels had added 71 lakh new voters, the plea said, adding that directions be given to remove inconsistencies and conduct free and fair elections.

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