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Jairam Ramesh writes to CEC, seeks time for INDIA bloc team to put forward view on VVPATS

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New Delhi: Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh has written to Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar, requesting that a team of INDIA bloc leaders are provided an opportunity to meet him and his colleagues to put forward their point of view on VVPATS.

In his letter to Kumar, Ramesh said that on December 20, 2023, INDIA parties’ leaders had requested for an appointment with the ECI to “discuss and provide suggestions on the use of VVPATs” based on a resolution passed at meeting of leaders of the bloc held the previous day.

“We have been trying to meet with the ECI to hand over a copy of this resolution and have a discussion but have not been successful so far in doing so,” he said.

“I once again make a request for an opportunity for a 3-4 member team of INDIA party leaders to meet with you and your colleagues and take a few minutes to put forward our point of view on VVPATS,” Ramesh said.

In his letter dated December 30, 2023, the Congress general secretary also pointed out that on August 9, 2023 a memorandum had been submitted to the ECI on EVM- related concerns of INDIA parties.

This was supported with several requests on August 9, 10, 16, 18 and 23 last year for a meeting of an INDIA parties’ delegation with the ECI, he said.

“On August 23, 2023 ECI issued a clarification to our counsel on the memorandum. This clarification was generic in nature and (i) directed us to refer to the standard FAQs on EVMs available on ECI website; (ii) explained the legal backing for EVMs through Section 61A of the Representation of Peoples’ Act, 1951; (iii) summarised judgments of High Courts and the Supreme Court on issue of EVMs; (iv) provided a chart of assembly and parliamentary election results since 2004 to show that the political party winning the maximum number of seats changed several times,” Ramesh said

However, there was no meeting or hearing provided to INDIA parties’ delegation despite repeated requests, he said.

On October 2, 2023 a follow-up representation was sent by us through counsel, Ramesh pointed out.

The representation raised specific concerns which remained unaddressed in the ECI’s clarification of August 23, 2023, he said and added that no response was received on the same.

Ramesh’s letter comes days after the opposition INDIA bloc asserted that there are many doubts about the integrity of the functioning of electronic voting machines and suggested that VVPAT slips be handed over to voters and its 100 per cent counting done later.

Leaders of several opposition parties had deliberated on the issue of EVMs, especially after the recent victories of the BJP in the state assembly elections, and felt that the entire opposition coalition should raise the matter unitedly before the people.

According to the Election Commission, mandatory verification of printed voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) slips of five randomly selected polling stations of each assembly constituency or each assembly segment is done in case of election to the House of the People before declaring results.

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