Review Petition SummaryIncreased Vote Verification Through VVPAT
Background and Issue
The lead petitioner in this case is Mr. M.G. Devasahayam, a former member of the Indian Army, Public Servant and Economist. The review petition was filed against the Courts disposal of the case N. Chandrababu Naidu v Union of India (2019) and the petitions connected with it on 8th April 2019, of which the petitioners was one such writ petition (referred to as the ‘captioned petition’).
The captioned petition sought the cross-verification and counting of Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trails (VVPAT) in 30% of all polling stations within each constituency. The captioned petition also relied on the opinion of Dr. S.K. Nath who was the former Director General of the Central Statistics Organisation to identify the statistically significant percentage of polling stations that need to be cross-verified. On this basis, the captioned petition challenged the Election Commissions decision to confine their cross verification to one polling station per constituency, as it was statistically insignificant, irrational and arbitrary.
What does the petitioner seek?
The petitioner has prayed for the court to allow the review petition against the courts order dated 8th April, 2019.
Insignificant Sample Size
The petitioner submitted in their captioned petition that the main purpose of the VVPAT system was so that voters could verify that their vote was accurately recorded. It is only when the paper slips are verified by the voters that transparency is allegedly ensured. In the opinion of Dr. S.K. Nath, one randomly chosen polling station per constituency was ‘statistically insignificant’.
The petitioner presented the idea of a ‘rational verification exercise’ and submitted that a 95-99% statistical confidence level is what needs to be achieved. And this can only be done by a mandatory VVPAT cross-verification of at least 30% of the EVMs in each constituency.
This current selection process for cross-verification is argued to be manifestly arbitrary and therefore unconstitutional for being in violation of Article 14 of the Constitution of India.
Miscarriage of Justice Through Errors on Record
The petitioner argued that the Election Commission incorrectly portrayed one of their reports as published by the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) when in reality it was only prepared and signed by the head of the Delhi Centre of the ISI in his private capacity.
The petitioner has also filed several reports that allegedly contradict the Election Commissions claims of the VVPAT tally having always shown a 100% match. They submit that this error must be reviewed as the Commission’s claims were taken on face value with no fact-finding process, despite a contradictory pleading being on record.
A violation of the right to free and fair elections is also a violation of fundamental rights contained in Articles 19(1)(a), 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India. The petitioner submitted that when conducting elections, having them being seen to be free and fair is an ‘insegragable’ aspect of the right to free and fair elections. The petitioner also argued that the order has ignored the progression of fundamental rights jurisprudence into a ‘culture of justification’. The argument is that the Commission must justify why the harms of cross-verification outweigh the benefits of adding confidence to the integrity of the election process.