India's Supreme Court orders five-fold increase in vote audits putting Election Commission under pressure to prepare

Supreme Court of India increase random checking of votes during the general election 2019BCCL

  • Indias apex court, the Supreme Court, just directed the Election Commission to increase the random checking of votes from just one poll booth in every assembly segment to five poll booths.
  • The bench lead of Chief Justice Gogoi asserts that this increase the transparency and credibility of the electoral process.
  • The Election Commission of India, on the other hand, feels that this will increase the man-power and skill requirement while only having a negligible effect on confidence levels.
Supreme Court of India finally responded to the joint petition filed by 21 opposition parties to increase random physical verification of votes at the polls during the general election in the country.

While the Supreme Court didnt meet the request of at least 50% of the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips — or the Verifiable Paper Records (VPR) — being checked randomly, they did assert that rather than only auditing one booth per assembly segment, five booths would be checked.

The bench headed by Chief Justice Gogoi, asserted that the increase in random checking would increase voter confidence and the credibility of the electoral process.

During the time of deliberations, the Election Commission of India (ECI) had told the apex court that the system of counting VPRs at only one booth per assembly segment was "found to be most suitable" after multiple studies and tests.

Any further increase in the sample size of verification will lead to very negligible gain in the confidence level.

Affidavit statement by the Election Commission of India to the Supreme Court

The ECI had also warned that in increasing the number of poll booths that will be subject to verification, the man-power and time requirements will also reportedly increase — possibly delaying the election results by 5.2 days. The former is especially tricky since the counting of VPRs required training and increasing the capabilities of the election officials in the field.

It is also relevant to mention that in many Assembly Constituencies, there are more than 400 polling stations, which will require about 8-9 days to complete the VVPAT slip count. It is pertinent to mention that demands for re-count that routinely arise of the VVPAT slips themselves, which will compound the time requirement.

Affidavit statement by the Election Commission of India to the Supreme Court

In light of these obstacles, the opposition, led by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu, has said, "If delay of 5.2 days is to be balanced with the integrity of electoral process, the balance will certainly tilt towards the latter," in an affidavit they submitted with the Supreme Court.

Considering that the general election is less than a week away, its difficult to discern how the ECI will go about making the required changes.
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