SC tells ECI to look into extra BJP votes printed during Kerala mock poll

Three VVPAT machines printed extra slips for BJP during two rounds of mock polls in Kerala on April 17.
Supreme Court
Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court on Thursday, April 18, directed the Election Commission of India (ECI) to look into the allegation that extra votes were recorded for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Kerala during a mock poll. On April 17, three VVPAT (Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail) machines printed one extra slip each with BJP’s lotus symbol during two rounds of mock polls in Kasaragod. The apex court is hearing petitions filed by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and others seeking to verify the EVM data against all VVPAT slips. 

When the case came up for hearing for the second day before Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta, advocate Prashant Bhushan informed the court that of a news report saying extra votes were recorded for BJP during the mock poll. The court directed the counsel of ECI, Maninder Singh, to look into it. “Mr. Maninder Singh (ECI Counsel), please crosscheck it," Bar and Bench reported the court as saying.

It was on Wednesday, April 17 that the incident happened at the Kasaragod government college. The EVMs had the names of 10 candidates, including the None of The Above (NOTA) option. 

Speaking to TNM, chief election agent of Congress candidate Rajmohan Unnithan, BM Jamal, said that when the machines were initialised, three out of 10 VVPAT machines printed out ‘test prints’ with the BJP’s lotus symbol on it and the words ‘not to be counted’ on top in small letters. Nasar Cherkalam, election agent of Unnithan, said that while the issue persisted for two rounds of mock poll, it was rectified in the third round.

VVPATs are machines connected to the EVMs. After a person casts their vote, it also gets recorded in the VVPAT, leaving a paper trail or slip. The slips are normally not handed over to the voter, but merely shown through a small lens that lights up for around seven seconds. The ECI picks five polling stations at random in each constituency and cross-verifies the EVM votes with the VVPATs. In case of any dispute in the number of votes, the number of VVPATs prevail over that of EVM.

Supreme Court
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The SC is now hearing a petition by the ADR and other petitioners contending that it is a fundamental right of voters to verify that their vote has been “recorded as cast” and “counted as recorded”. The petitioners argue that as both EVMs and VVPATs have programmable chips, malicious programs can be inserted into them. They demand either to go back to the paper ballot system, or allow the voter to physically take the VVPAT slip and deposit it in the ballot box, which shall then be counted. They are also asking the ECI to count all the VVPAT slips in all the constituencies.

Watch: Don’t trust EVMs, want all VVPATs counted: Devasahayam intv | No Filter with Dhanya Rajendran

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