We have time and again stated what we think is the correct legal position as regards the controversy raised by the opposition regarding the VVPATs.
The Supreme Court could have avoided the current problem by ruling in the first place that the VVPAT is only an acknowledgement and it has no legal significance or precedence over the electronic click made by the voter. However, the Supreme Court did not factor in the nefarious motive of the opposition to disrupt the counting process using the VVPAT as an excuse.
Now the opposition has raked up an issue that VVPATs should first be counted and tallied before the counting the electronic votes recorded in the EVM is undertaken. Mr Chandrababu Naidu has also revealed their intention that if there is any mismatch, the counting should be stopped. It is therefore clear that the objective of the opposition is to stop counting and create a constitutional crisis.
Under the circumstances as an observer of the Cyber Crime and related scenario, I anticipate the following developments tomorrow which will all be aimed at confusing the Election Commission and harassing them to yield to the demands of the opposition.
- At the time VVPATs are taken up for counting, first there will be a call for tallying the machine number, the number of votes etc recorded in the form given to the polling agents by the poll booth officials.
- When these are done, there could be one or more booth agents who would have changed the form which was in their hands for some times now and claim that the information given to them at the booth and what is now being shown do not tally. Hence there will be a claim that the machines have been switched or the votes have been tampered with.
- If the discussion goes past this and counting is done, then the polling agents who will be present at the counting of the physical slips will say that some slips were wrongly dropped into BJP box and it has to be recounted again and again. They may also ensure that one or two slips are stolen and destroyed. They may even hide it inside their inner clothes like the drug peddlers or even eat up one or two of the slips. The EC would not be able to forcibly check the agents physically like the ED or the Police and a ruckus will be created that there is a difference in the count and hence the counting should be stopped forthwith.
- There may be demonstrations and physical violence outside.
- There will be an urgent mention at the Supreme Court for a stay.
I therefore request that the EC and the Government of the day responsible for the law enforcement in each counting centers which include those under the control of Opposition ruled states like West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh to ensure that the counting process is not interrupted.
It may be necessary for the Central Forces to be in charge of all counting centers to manage the law and order situation.
At the back of all this, I reiterate that the VVPATs are only acknowledgement slips and the vote of the voter is recorded electronically in the EVM and if there is any discrepancy, the EVM count should be considered as valid. Further litigation if any should be after the candidate is declared elected and an election petition is filed.
Any other approach will be unfair and also illegal.
[PS: Happy that the above concern did not materialize. EC refusing to agree for the VVPATs to be counted first was helpful. Also Mr Chandrababu Naidu losing badly in AP and Mamata being jolted in WB further defused the opposition. Overall, we are relieved that the Tukde Tukde gang was defeated and nationalist forces marched to a grand victory……Naavi, 23rd May 2019]