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SC Agrees to Examine Pleas of Cong Leaders on Duplicate Voters, VVPAT Manipulation

Representative Image.

Representative Image.

A bench of Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan issued notice and sought reply of poll panels in one week. It posted the matter for further hearing on August 31.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to examine the pleas filed by senior Congress leaders Kamal Nath and Sachin Pilot alleging duplication of names in the voters' lists of poll-bound Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan and seeking random verification of VVPAT machines in the upcoming assembly elections there.

The top court sought the response of the Election Commission of India (ECI) and State Election Commissions of both Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

A bench of Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan issued notice and sought reply of poll panels in one week. It posted the matter for further hearing on August 31.

Senior advocates Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Vivek Tankha, appearing for Nath and Pilot, said that directions should be issued to publish the voters list in a "text format as per rules" and expeditious decisions taken on all complaints before its final publication.

Singhvi said that text format was allowed in Rajasthan but the poll panel was not allowing it in Madhya Pradesh on the grounds of breach of privacy. "Providing the voters lists in text format is as per rules, then where is the question of breach of privacy."

Singhvi said that Kamal Nath had conducted a survey at his own cost in Madhya Prades and found that 61 lakh voters were "fake".

"Similar is the case of Rajasthan with regard to duplication of voters where there are over 41 lakh duplicate voters. They have added 71 lakh new voters. Directions should be given to remove the inconsistencies and conduct free and fair elections," he said.

The bench said it was seeking a response from the central and state poll panels on the petitions of both the Congress leaders.

The plea filed by Nath through advocate Varun Chopra said a direction should be issued to the Election Commission to randomly verify VVPAT (Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail) slips with EVM votes at 10 per cent of randomly selected polling stations in every constituency.

The Madhya Pradesh Congress chief also said that the display time for the VVPAT slip for the voters should be 15 seconds instead of the current seven seconds. "Because paper trail coming out of VVPAT is only visible for seven seconds. Therefore, majority of voters, who are not well versed with technology will not be able to look to the paper trail and confirm if the VVPAT is showing the correct slip," it said.

It has urged the court to issue a direction to the poll panel to prohibit deletion of voters from the voter list without intimation to all political parties.

The Congress leader, in his plea, pointed out that recently the EC had dropped over 24 lakh voters from the voters list published in January this year for Madhya Pradesh. He said the poll panel has not explained whether unique identification serial number will be given to the collection box and the EVMs.

He said unless such unique identification serial number was given to identify a ballot box and a voting machine, chances of manipulation were very high, adding that in order to prevent any kind of manipulation Unique Identification Serial Number has to be made mandatory for all EVMs with VVPATs.

Nath also alleged various lapses in transferring of machines before and after the polls and pointed out an incident of May 29 this year after the bye-polls at Palghar Lok Sabha constituency in Maharashtra when two election officers were caught transporting EVMs in a private car.

"No clear instructions regarding and secured transportation of EVMs before and after polling has been prescribed till date. Without a protocol and standard procedure for the same, such incidents can vitiate the entire process of elections," the Congress leader said.

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