SC refuses to VVPAT slips in Gujarat

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today refused to entertain a plea of the Gujarat Congress, seeking counting of at least 20% of paper trail slips manually besides the electronic votes cast in EVMs in each constituency of the state.

It said that the court cannot interfere unless the Election Commission of India's decision to restrict the EVM-VVPAT paper trail to one booth per constituency is proved "arbitrary", "illegal" or "malafide".

A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud permitted petitioner Mohammad Arif Rajput, a Gujarat Congress leader, to withdraw his plea but granted liberty to file a comprehensive petition seeking election reforms later.

The apex court said a debate on poll reform can only take place after the election process in the state is over.

Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Rajput, said that the counting of the slips of the voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) machines along with the votes cast in the electronic voting machines (EVM) in at least 20% of booths in each constituency would reassure people about the fairness of the polls.

The bench then questioned the locus standi of the petitioner and asked Singhvi who he was representing.

The counsel replied that he was a secretary of the main opposition party, the Congress, in Gujarat.

The bench told Singhvi that his client had approached it in his personal capacity and he should have let the party take a bold stand and approach the court.

Singhvi said, "I am an officer bearer of the party in the state."

The court told the counsel that a candidate has every right to question the vote count before the returning officer.

"This court can't interfere unless the Election Commission's decision for a random check of the EVM-VVPAT paper trail in one booth per constituency is proved arbitrary, illegal or malafide. We cannot discredit the Election Commission's decision without cogent material," it said.

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