Kolkata, Jan 31 (PTI) The Citizens Commission on Elections (CCE), a civil society group of retired judges, former civil servants and activists, has called upon tbe Election Commission of India (ECI) to ensure foolproof counting of votes.

The CCE released its first report on making proper and effective tamper-proof use of EVMs at the Kolkata Press Club on Saturday.

"With elections in the offing, voters confidence in the electoral process needs to be secured and EVM voting should abide by principles of democracy.

"Our technologists consulted best universities in the West and both are alarmed at the present inadequacy of EVMs, more because elections are near in West Bengal, Assam, Kerala," the CCE said in a statement.

The public initiative is chaired by retired Supreme Court judge Justice Madan Lokur. The eight-member committee comprises former CIC Wajahat Habibullah, former Madras high court Judge Justice Hari Paranthaman, economist Arun Kumar, civil society activist John Dayal, senior journalist Pamela Philipose, and Dr Subhashis Banerjee, professor of computer science at IIT Delhi.

Former CEO of Prasar Bharati Jawahar Sircar, who presented the report, told PTI on Sunday, the CCE is of the view that there should be full utilisation of Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) so that there are zero anomalies during counting.

"The EC is yet to vet the use of VVPAT with every EVM in our polls. They are of the view that tallying the marked paper slip with the electronic voting recorded in the machine processor chip will take lot of extra time. However, for each machine it will take less than half an hour extra time," Sircar said.

The VVPAT is an independent printer like system attached with the EVM that allows the voters to verify that their votes are cast as intended. The VVPAT consists of a Printer and a VVPAT Status Display Unit (VSDU).

When a vote is cast, a slip is printed on the VVPAT printer containing the serial number, name and symbol of the candidate for whom the voter has cast his ballot and it can be seen/verified by the voter for 7 seconds through a transparent window Thereafter, this printed slip automatically gets cut and falls in sealed drop box of the VVPAT.

Claiming that the EC's conduct of parliamentary elections of 2019 had "invited serious controversy and its very fairness came to be questioned by several organisations on very valid grounds," the organisers said seminars and wide-ranging public discussions were held on the issue in 2019 and 2020.

"A unanimous suggestion that emanated from this process was the need to constitute a body comprising eminent and experienced persons with domain knowledge to delve into critical aspects related to elections in India," the statement said.

The CCE was constituted in March 2020, with the mandate to draw upon expert advice, wherever necessary, and come up with appropriate suggestions to ensure that elections in the country are conducted in a free and fair manner.

Physical verification of VVPAT slips with the EVM count was done across over 20,000 polling station before declaration of Lok Sabha poll results in 2019, as per Supreme Court orders.

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