Supreme Court Presses Election Commission on EVM-VVPAT Matching Demand: Only 5 EVMs Verified Currently

The Supreme Court heard a plea on Monday (April 1) demanding the counting of all Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) votes with Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips in elections. Justices B.R. Gavai and Justice Sandeep Mehta’s bench issued notices to the Election Commission and the Central Government seeking their response. The hearing on this matter is now scheduled for May 17.

In fact, activist Arun Kumar Agrawal filed the petition in August 2023. Senior advocate Gopal Shankar Narayanan, representing Agrawal, stated that all votes cast in EVMs should be matched with VVPAT slips. Currently, random sampling of 5 EVMs is done for VVPAT verification.

Additionally, the petition suggests providing voters with the option to physically verify VVPAT slips. It argues that voters should have the facility to deposit VVPAT slips in a box attached to the EVM.

Simultaneous Verification Demand

The petition highlights that currently, only 5 Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) are being verified one after the other with VVPATs. Verification of all EVMs does not occur simultaneously. To ensure the accurate counting of votes, officials’ deployment in each constituency should be increased so that verification can be completed within 5-6 hours.

Furthermore, the petition mentions that the Election Commission has spent approximately 5,000 crore rupees to purchase an estimated 24 lakh VVPATs. However, only the verification of 20,000 VVPAT slips is conducted.

What is VVPAT?

What is VVPAT?

Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail, or VVPAT, is integrated with Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). It displays a paper slip with the symbol of the party the voter has chosen whenever a voter presses a button on the EVM. This allows the voter to confirm whether their vote has been cast correctly or not.

The slip issued by VVPAT is visible only to the voter. It remains visible for only 7 seconds, allowing the voter to verify their choice. If there is a possibility of discrepancies in the election process, the Election Commission checks the slips telephonically.

Supreme Court Intervention in VVPAT Matching Demands

Prior to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, leaders of 21 opposition parties had also demanded the matching of at least 50% of all EVMs with VVPAT machine slips. At that time, the Election Commission allowed only one EVM to be matched with a VVPAT machine in each constituency. However, on April 8, 2019, the Supreme Court increased the number from 1 to 5.

Subsequently, in May 2019, some technocrats also filed a petition demanding verification of all EVMs through VVPAT, which the Supreme Court dismissed.

In addition to these, in July 2023, the Association for Democratic Reforms also filed a petition for the counting of votes. The Supreme Court, while dismissing it, emphasized the need to have more confidence in the impartiality of elections.

Niyati Rao

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