Supreme Court Upholds EVM Integrity, Rejects Calls for Ballot Paper Elections

The Supreme Court has directed that elections will be conducted through Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) rather than paper ballots. However, it has not mandated 100% cross-checking of VVPAT slips from EVMs. The Supreme Court judges, Justice Sanjiv Khanna and Justice Deepankar Datta, stated that they have discussed the protocols and technical aspects thoroughly, and then unanimously decided on the matter.

The Supreme Court issued two directives:

  1. Firstly, after the completion of the process of loading symbols, the symbol loading units should be sealed. These sealed units should be stored for 45 days.
  2. Secondly, after the declaration of results, if any candidate at the second or third position suspects any discrepancy, they should file a complaint within 7 days. The engineering team will then check the memory of the microcontrollers inside the EVMs. The cost of this verification process will be borne by the candidate. If any tampering is found during the investigation, the candidate will be reimbursed for the expenses incurred.

In August 2023, activist Arun Kumar Agrawal filed a petition regarding the 100% verification of VVPAT slips, stating that voters should be given the option to physically verify their VVPAT slips. It was suggested in the petition that voters should have the facility to take back their slips after casting their votes to ensure transparency and mitigate the possibility of irregularities in elections.

In this case, the petitioners were represented by advocates Prashant Bhushan, Gopal Shankaranarayanan, and Sanjay Hegde. Prashant represented the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR). Meanwhile, during the hearing, the Election Commission (EC) was questioned by the court about whether voters could be denied VVPAT slips.

Previously, on April 18, the bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Deepankar Datta had kept the arguments of lawyers and the Election Commission’s evidence under wraps for five hours before making a safe decision. In the latest hearing, the court asked the election panel whether voters could be denied VVPAT slips after casting their votes.

Regarding this matter, the Election Commission stated that providing VVPAT slips to voters poses a significant risk. It could lead to misuse of the slips, compromising the secrecy of the vote and potentially resulting in booth capturing. How others could misuse it, we cannot say.

To ensure free and fair elections, the election process was comprehensively explained by the panels of election officials and lawyers representing the petitioners. It was emphasized that the sanctity of the electoral process must be preserved. There should be no doubt that this was happening and it did not. The court then kept the decision safe.

During the April 16 hearing, Bhushan was told by the Supreme Court that the examples from Germany did not apply here. In the April 16 hearing, advocate Prashant Bhushan had argued that VVPAT slips should be placed in the ballot box. This is done in Germany as well. Justice Deepankar Datta had stated that the examples there do not work here. Apart from this, the court directed the election panel to explain all possibilities regarding tampering with storage and data related to EVMs, starting from production.

Currently, only 5% of the votes from 5 EVMs are being matched with VVPAT slips. It has been mentioned in the petition that the Election Commission has spent Rs. 5,000 crore to purchase approximately 24 lakh VVPATs, but only 20,000 VVPAT slips are being verified with votes.

The use of VVPAT machines in India first occurred during the general elections of 2014. These machines are manufactured by the Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL) and Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL).

This issue has been raised many times in the Supreme Court before. Before the Lok Sabha elections in 2019, leaders of 21 opposition parties also demanded matching of at least 50% of VVPAT slips with EVM votes. At that time, the election commission matched only one EVM with VVPAT machines in each polling station for every assembly constituency. On April 8, 2019, this was increased from 1 to 5 EVMs.

After that, in May 2019, some technocrats filed a petition demanding the counting of all EVMs through VVPATs, which was dismissed by the Supreme Court.

Besides, the Association for Democratic Reforms also filed a petition in July 2023 for counting votes, which the Supreme Court rejected, stating that we should not raise doubts about the impartiality of the elections.

Niyati Rao

Niyati Rao is a seasoned writer and avid consumer who specializes in crafting informative and engaging articles and product reviews. With a passion for research and a knack for finding the best deals, Niyati enjoys helping readers make informed decisions about their purchases.