VVPAT data destroyed before stipulated period, NGOs tell SC

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the NGOs, submitted before the court that “shocking fact” had emerged in an RTI response, and the parties will file application on this matter.
EVM VVPAT

New Delhi, Feb 24 : Two NGOs — the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and Common Cause – Monday alleged in the Supreme Court that the Election Commission has violated election rules by destroying data pertaining to VVPAT of the last general election, while the statutory one-year period for this process to conclude is yet to get over.

Citing the poll panel’s response received through an RTI application, the NGOs contended before a bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and comprising Justices B.R. Gavai and Surya Kant that it is mandatory to retain the VVPAT data for a period of one year — under the Election Rules.

The court replied that at this moment it is not willing to examine the matter.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the NGOs, submitted before the court that “shocking fact” had emerged in an RTI response, and the parties will file application on this matter.

The top court had earlier issued notice to the poll body on the plea seeking a probe to examine the alleged discrepancies between the voter turnout figure and the number of votes counted in 347 constituencies. The poll body is yet to file response on this matter. The court has scheduled this matter for further hearing after four weeks.

The ADR, backing its claim on the research conducted by experts, said serious discrepancies apparently appear between the number of voters in different constituencies, which involves voter turnout data collated and provided by the poll body and the number of votes counted.

The NGOs, in the plea, seek direction to the poll body to develop a robust procedure to probe these discrepancies in future elections. “The Master summary of 542 constituencies shows discrepancies in 347 seats. 195 seats are without discrepancies whatsoever. The discrepancies range from 1 vote (lowest) to 101,323 votes @ 10.49 per cent of the total votes (highest),” said the NGO in the plea.

The plea also claims there were six seats where the discrepancy in the number of votes was higher than the winning margin. The petition has sought accurate reconciliation of data before poll results are declared and seek direction to the EC to bring in public domain the information in the statutory forms — 17C, 20, 21C, 21D and 21E — for general election held last year and all future elections.

“That in order to uphold and preserve the sanctity of elections, it is undeniably imperative that election results are accurate. It is not only sufficient that election results are accurate; the public must also know that the results are accurate. The entire electoral process is damaged if elections are not credible even in the absence of a demonstrable scam,” said the plea.

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