SC asks centre, EC why EVMs with VVPAT are not used in elections

13 April 2017

The Supreme Court has sought response from the central government and the Election Commission on a plea by the Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP) seeking compliance with a 2013 Supreme Court directive to introduce paper trails (VVPATs) in Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).

The apex court has asked the centre and the EC to respond by 8 May to BSP's plea seeking a court directive to introduce VVPATs in Electronic Voting Machines.

A bench led by Justice J Chelameswar issued notice to the centre after senior advocate P Chidambaram submitted that EVMs remain highly vulnerable and susceptible to hacking.

"What one man can invent, another man can hack," Chidambaram submitted.

"I (voter) press a button on the EVM and I do not know what the machine has recorded. There is no way I can know that the machine is recording the wishes of the electorate," Chidambaram said.

He said if the EVM is fixed to a vote-verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) machine, the voter can see whether the symbol the voter presses is the symbol the EVM registers in the system.

Verification of the vote is an indispensable part of voting, Chidambaram submitted.

"Only a paper trail can restore the confidence of the people," he submitted.

The Supreme Court, in 2013, to a petition filed by the now BJP Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy, had asked the Election Commission to introduce in a phased manner the paper trail in Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, saying "it is an indispensable requirement of free, fair and transparent" polls which will restore confidence of the voters.

The Supreme Court also directed the centre to provide financial assistance to the Election Commission for introduction vote verifier paper audit trail (VVPAT) system with the EVMs and asked it to "ensure the accuracy of the voting system" and also help in "manual counting of votes in case of dispute."

"The 'paper trail' is an indispensable requirement of free and fair elections. The confidence of voters in the EVMs can be achieved only with introduction of the paper trail," it had said.

"EVMs with VVPAT system ensure the accuracy of the voting system. With an intent to have fullest transparency in the system and to restore the confidence of the voters, it is necessary to set up EVMs with VVPAT system because vote is nothing but an act of expression which has immense importance in democratic system," the bench had said.

It is estimated that a total of Rs3,000 crore will be needed to set up EVMS with VVPAT.

The BSP and the Congress along with other opposition parties, including the TMC, however, said they did not want to press their prayer for quashing of the recent assembly elections.

To a asubmission made by senior advocate Kapil Sibal for Congress party. "Nowhere in the world except in South America EVMs are used," Justice Chelameswar retorted, "if I am not wrong, EVMs was introduced by your party."

"EVMs itself was a remedy for other evils of polling like booth-capturing, etc," Justice Chelameswar said.

"Science has improved, so has hacking," Chidambaram responded.

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