The Election Commission on Wednesday refused to change the process of counting the votes polled in the Lok Sabha elections. The poll panel said counting will continue as planned on May 23 as it was not “possible nor feasible to accede” to the demand made by the Opposition parties.

Representatives of 22 Opposition parties had met the Election Commission on Tuesday reiterating their demand that Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail slips of randomly-selected polling stations be verified before votes are counted on May 23.

Last month, the Supreme Court had ordered that VVPAT slips be used to verify votes for five electronic voting machines in every constituency during the ongoing elections instead of just one. The court had said this practice would ensure the “greatest degree of accuracy, satisfaction” in the election process.

In a statement, the poll panel said it will follow the guidelines approved by the Supreme Court.
“There were some other procedural issues like allowing counting agents of candidates along with all Returning Officers and Assistant Returning Officers on which necessary instructions have already been reiterated and wherever required made more candidate-friendly,” the panel said. “The Commission while thanking all the esteemed members of the delegation assures them and all the electors of the country that the entire counting especially guarding the strong rooms and counting centres is already being done in an absolutely fair and transparent manner.”

Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad had said on Tuesday that the delegation told the Election Commission that if any discrepancy is found during the VVPAT verification, then all the VVPAT slips at all polling stations of that particular Assembly segment should be verified.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court had also dismissed a plea seeking 100% verification of VVPAT slips with the results from electronic voting machines during counting. The court called the petition a nuisance. “Can’t keep entertaining similar pleas,” said Justice Arun Mishra.

On May 7, the Supreme Court declined to hear a review petition against that order, filed by 21 Opposition parties, urging it to direct the Election Commission to cross-check at least 50% votes using VVPAT slips. The Election Commission had contended in the court that verification of 50% of votes would delay the announcement of results by six days.