New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a plea for simultaneous counting of all votes recorded by Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trails (VVPAT) along with with the electronic voting machines’ (EVM) counting.
Observing that the court cannot come in the way of people electing their government, the vacation bench of Justices Arun Mishra and M.R. Shah said the matter had already been dealt with by a larger bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi.
“We cannot come in the way of people electing their government. Let the country elect its government”, the bench told the lawyer appearing for NGO “Tech for All”.
“The CJI has dealt with the matter. The order was already there. A two-judge bench cannot override the order passed by a larger bench”, Justice Mishra said while telling the lawyer that his plea could not be entertained.
The court also asked the lawyer what were the new circumstances to bring the same plea before the court again.
The lawyer said the order passed by the bench headed by the CJI on May 8 was prior to the conclusion of the polling, and now the polling was completed. While rejecting the plea, Justice Mishra described it as “nonsense” and said: “Don’t make a mockery of democracy.”
Meanwhile, the EC on Tuesday dismissed claims by the Opposition parties that EVMs were being moved around in the days ahead of the counting of votes. It also rejected allegations of discrepancies at the strongrooms where the EVMs have been kept prior to the election results on May 23.
Several videos of the EVMs being stored and moved from one unauthorised storage house to another surfaced on Twitter and other social media platforms.
Allaying concerns, the EC said: “Election Commission of India would like to emphatically and unambiguously clarify that all such reports and allegations are absolutely false and factually incorrect. The visuals seen viral on media do not pertain to any EVMs used during the polls. After the close of polls, all polled EVMs and VVPATs are brought under security cover to the designated strongrooms, which are sealed with double locks, in the presence of the candidates and in the presence of observers of the Election Commission. The entire process of storage and sealing of the strongrooms is covered under videography.”
It added that continuous CCTV coverage is done till completion of counting and each strongroom is guarded with round-the-clock security by Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF). Besides, the candidates or their designated agents are present at the strongroom for the 24X7 vigil at all times.
The EC said that on the counting day, the strongrooms will be opened in the presence of the candidates/agents and observer under videography. “Before the counting of EVMs commences, the counting agents are shown the address tags, seals and serial number of EVMs to satisfy themselves to the genuineness and authenticity of the machines used in the actual polls.
The provisions and protocols have been explained to the political parties on multiple occasions, including in several of the 93 meetings held with them at the commission since the announcement of elections. All chief electoral officers and district election officers have again been advised to brief the candidates,” the EC said.