A 3 Judge Bench of the Supreme Court today declined the plea to modify its order dated 8th April 2019. The Court had ordered the Election Commission to increase the number of booths that undergo VVPAT physical verification. It increased the number of booths per Assembly Segment from 1 booth to 5 booths.
The Bench comprised Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna.
The review petition filed by the of 21 opposition parties sought for the Court to review its 8th April order because they had asked for 50% VVPAT verification, whereas the Court granted to equivalent of roughly 2% verification. On May 3rd, the Bench agreed to hear the review petitions in open court.
In today’s hearing, Dr. AM Singhvi, appearing for the Petitioners, began his arguments stating that the petitioners were grateful that the Bench had increased the number of VVPAT slips that were to be verified from 1 to 5. He then pointed to the order of the Court passed by the Bench, reading from paragraph 7 in particular and made his submission that the Bench too had agreed with the reasoning adopted by the petitioners. The VVPAT verification, he submitted was enhancing the confidence of the public in the electoral process and the Court too had taken note of this principle. He further submitted that though in the original petition of the petitioners had sought for the verification of 50% of the VVPAT slips in each Assembly Segment/Constituency, the petitioners in the review were only requesting the Court to consider verification of either 33% or 25% of the slips, noting that 5 slips per Constituency only amounted to verification of about 2% of the VVPAT slips.
The Bench presided by Justice Gogoi, however, recorded that it was not inclined to modify its order of 8th April. In a last effort, Mr. Singhvi attempted to urge the Court to hear his additional arguments on the non-implementation of the order of the Court dated 8th April, owing to lack of any guidelines issued for the same. Further, Mr. Kapil Sibal sought to draw the attention of the Court to his argument that the respondents had misrepresented certain facts before the Bench. The Bench of CJI Gogoi however rejected the review petitions.
(Court reporting by Disha Chaudhry)