The Gujarat High Court division bench of Acting Chief Justice AS Dave and Justice Biren Vaishnav, on Tuesday, dismissed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking directions to the Election Commission of India (ECI) and the Centre to get hold of sufficient numbers of electronic voting machines (EVMs) as well as Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines for the upcoming general elections.
Placing reliance over the information obtained under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, it was submitted before the court that election commission has only three lakh VVPAT machines as against over nine lakh EVMs, in working condition.
The petitioner approached the court seeking directions to ECI and the Centre to procure an appropriate number of machines in order to hold the Lok Sabha elections in a smooth way.
Besides, the petitioner while challenging the Rule 56D(2) of the Conduct of Election Rules also urged the court to look into the constitutional validity of the provision related to the discretion of returning officer regarding whether to count printed paper slips by VVPAT on demand by a candidate, or not.
Notably, the said Rule however, does not binds a returning officer to count printed slips from VVPAT on demand for counting by a candidate contesting the polls but it empowers a returning officer to dismiss an application seeking counting of votes through counting printed slips.
Likewise, it was prayed to issue directions making it mandatory to count printed paper slips in future during general elections on the polls using a VVPAT machine.
Pertinently, VVPAT is a system of printing paper trail when the voter casts his vote, in addition to the electronic record of the ballot, for the purpose of verification of his choice of candidate and also for manual counting of votes in case of dispute.