Commission's Omissions

EC lies in affidavit before SC in VVPAT case filed by opposition parties

19 May 2019
In March this year, the Election Commission filed an affidavit before the Supreme Court that contained lies or obscured the truth, and thus misled the court.
Adnan Abidi / REUTERS
In March this year, the Election Commission filed an affidavit before the Supreme Court that contained lies or obscured the truth, and thus misled the court.
Adnan Abidi / REUTERS

Documents accessed by The Caravan show that in March this year, the Election Commission filed an affidavit before the Supreme Court that made blatantly false claims. The EC submitted the affidavit in response to a petition filed by 21 opposition parties, seeking instructions to the electoral watchdog to verify 50 percent of the Electronic Voting Machine results with the Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail slips. On 8 April, the court rejected the petition, relying heavily on the EC’s affidavit, which was filed by Sudeep Jain, the deputy election commissioner. Among other falsehoods, the affidavit claims that there had not been any mismatch in the VVPAT and EVM tallies conducted in the past two years, and that the EC had only received one complaint about a VVPAT recording an incorrect vote since 2013.

The EC states in its affidavit that since May 2017, “1500 polling stations over several General Elections to the State Legislatures as well as bye elections to the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies have undergone VVPAT slip count wherein the tally matched completely i.e no error was detected.” Yet, according to a Press Trust of India report published by News18, BB Swain, who was the chief electoral officer of Gujarat at the time, admitted that there were mismatches in one booth on four seats—Vagra, Dwarka, Ankleshwar and Bhavnagar Rural—during the assembly elections held in December 2017.

“There was a mismatch of some votes on one booth each of these four seats,” Swain said, according to the News18 report. “This occurred because the Returning Officer must have made the same mistake but it could not be detected earlier. So we took into account VVPAT slips for these booths during the counting and resolved the issue.” The report also notes that VVPAT slips were counted at “10 booths across seven constituencies as the presiding officers of these booths had failed to wipe out the votes from the EVMs during the mock poll ahead of the voting on December 9 and 14.” Curiously, despite mentioning these details, the News18 report is titled, “100% Match Between EVMs and Paper Trail Slips on Random Vote Count, Says EC Official.”

A similar incident took place during the Karnataka assembly polls, in May 2018. A press note published by ANI stated that the EVMs had not been cleared after the mock polls, due to which there was a difference of 54 votes in the final tally between the EVM and VVPAT in one polling booth of the Hubli Dharwad constituency. It added that the winning candidate had won by over 20,000 votes, whereas the affected VVPAT recorded only 459 votes, and that it had no effect on the final result.

The EC’s affidavit, however, does not mention either of these incidents. Instead, it later repeats, “No mismatch has been detected in mock polls or in verification of VVPAT slips carried out at 1500 polling stations till date.”

Sreerag PS is an editorial intern at The Caravan.

Keywords: Elections 2019 Election Commission Supreme Court VVPAT EVM Telangana Assembly Elections 2018 Indian Statistical Institute
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