The leaders of 21 Opposition parties have filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court saying that a delay of 5.2 days in the declaration of election results due to the counting of 50% VVPAT slips is not a serious one if it maintains the integrity of the process, Bar and Bench reported on Sunday. The Supreme Court is expected to continue hearing the case on Monday.

The Lok Sabha elections will be held in seven phases from April 11 to May 19, and the results will be declared on May 23.

The Supreme Court had on April 1 asked the Opposition leaders to reply within a week to the Election Commission’s affidavit on their plea about the use of Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail slips in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls. The Election Commission had told the Supreme Court that an increase in the sample size of Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail slips would lead to a six-day delay in the results of the Lok Sabha polls, and that an increase in the sample size will improve the reliability of the results by a “very negligible” amount.

The Opposition leaders, led by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu, have sought that VVPAT slips of at least 50% voting machines in each Assembly constituency be checked randomly during the General Elections. The commission now counts VVPAT slips in one polling booth in each Assembly constituency.

“The petitioners firstly submit that even a delay of 5.2 days in declaring the results of the General Election is not a serious delay in any manner if it ensures the integrity of electoral process,” the Opposition leaders submitted in the affidavit. “If the delay of 5.2 days is to be balanced with the integrity of electoral process, the balance will certainly tilt towards the latter.”

The leaders added that the 5.2-day delay will decrease to 2.6 days if the Election Commission increases its workforce by one person per Assembly segment to verify the VVPAT slips. Currently, one person per segment does the verification.

“The petitioners are not casting any aspersions on the Election Commission of India but are merely seeking a direction that will not only give proper effect to the earlier orders passed by this Court but will also instil a certain sense of confidence in the minds of the general public to the effect that elections shall be free and fair,” the affidavit said, according to PTI.

“The petitioners respectfully submit that the Election Commission, which is saddled with the responsibility of ensuring free and fair elections, should in all fairness welcome the petitioners’ prayers and itself offer to increase the aforesaid numbers/percentage rather than robustly opposing the same in an adversarial manner,” it added. “The present guideline issue by ECI makes VVPAT completely ineffective and merely ornamental in nature. It defeats the entire purpose of introducing VVPAT and renders the judgement and directions passed by the court completely otiose.”