In a major setback to the opposition, the Supreme Court on Tuesday refuses to entertain a review petition filed by 21 Opposition parties seeking review of its order on random matching of VVPAT slips with EVMs in the ongoing general elections.
"We are not inclined to modify our order," the top court bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Deepak Gupta said while dismissing the review petition.
The apex court had on April 8 directed the Election Commission to increase random matching of Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips with Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in five polling booths per assembly segment from one booth.
The top court, however, had not agreed to the demand of 21 Opposition leaders for counting of at least 50 percent of VVPAT slips with EVMs in every assembly segment.
Not satisfied with the top court's direction, the opposition leaders led by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu had sought the review of the order, saying the "increase from 1 to 5 is not a reasonable number and does not lead to satisfaction desired by this court".
The plea said: "The petitioners submit that the aforesaid increase to a mere 2 per cent is not sufficient and will not make any substantial difference to the situation that existed prior to the passing of the impugned order.
"Therefore, even though the petitioners have succeeded on the merits of their contention, their success does not resolve their grievance or cause any meaningful change to the situation that they were originally aggrieved of."
Referring to earlier observations of the apex court, it had said that the 2 per cent increase in random matching of VVPAT slips with EVMs would not achieve the purpose of raising "public confidence in the integrity of the electoral process".
The plea has opposed the Election Commission (EC) argument, which was accepted by the court, that as the elections were nearby and hence it would not be viable to increase the number of random matching of VVPAT slips with EVMs.
"It is submitted that, once this court agrees that the number of EVMs that should be subjected to VVPAT verification should be increased to a 'reasonable number', not increasing the same to a number which is 'reasonable' because it may not be 'viable' to do so renders the entire exercise otiose and futile," the plea has said.
Consequently, the 'viable number' must also necessarily be reasonable, it had said, alleging that at many booths in Andhra Pradesh the VVPAT machines were not working properly.
(With PTI inputs)