Nupur Dogra

The Supreme Court on Tuesday heard the pleas seeking counting and cross-verification of 100% VVPAT paper slips with EVMs in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. The petitioners moved the top court against the present system of counting VVPATs in 5 randomly selected polling booths per Assembly. The Election Commission of India (ECI) has termed the demand by the petitioners as "regressive" and equivalent to reverting to paper ballot system. The court today heard the petitioners and adjourned the hearing till Thursday.

The petition filed by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) in 2023, stated that the current practice by the ECI to count the electronically recorded votes in all of the EVMs and cross-verify EVMs with the VVPATs in only 5 randomly selected polling booth per assembly constituency is not sufficient.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan began his argument and told the court that the EVMs can be manupulated. Bhushan said, "we aren’t saying they are manipulated or have been. We are saying that they can be manipulated as both EVM and VVPAT has two kinds of chips. First memory in the chip that can be programmed and a flash memory used during symbol loading."

Bhushan further said that most European countries have done away with EVM as they found them unreliable. He contended that EVMs are programmable and so a malicious program can be installed.

A Bench of Justice Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta heard the case and posed several questions to the petitioners.

Justice Khanna while hearing the case observed that "human intervention leads to a problem. Including bias. Machine normally without humans works properly and gives accurate results." 

Prashant Bhushan through the ADR plea contends that every voter has a fundamental right to verify that their vote has been 'recorded as cast' and 'counted as recorded'. He further points towards a 'complete vacuum' in law as ECI has not laid down any procedure for a voter to verify their vote.

What Petitioners Ask From SC In VVPAT-EVM Row

Just three days ahead of Lok Sabha elections, the apex court heard the writ petition moved under Article 32 for enforcing the fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India.

The petitioners seek the following directions to the ECI:

1) To mandatorily cross verify the count in EVMs with votes that have been verifiably ‘recorded as cast’ by the voter through the VVPATs by counting all VVPAT slips.

2) Quashing and setting aside of Guideline No. 14.7(h) of the Manual on Electronic Voting Machine and VVPAT dated August, 2023 as framed and issued by ECI in so far as it allows only sequential verification of VVPAT slips resulting in undue delay in counting of all VVPAT slips. They have sought a parallel counting.

3) A direction that the voter should be allowed to physically drop VVPAT slip as generated by the VVPAT in a ballot box to ensure that the voter’s ballot has been ‘counted as recorded’. 

4) A direction to the ECI to make the glass of the VVPAT machine transparent and duration of the light long enough for the voter to see the paper recording his vote cut and drop into the drop box so as to ensure greater satisfaction, which was the purport of earlier judgments by Supreme Court in 2013 in 'Dr. Subramanian Swamy vs Election Commission of India' and another in 2019 in N. Chandrababu Naidu case.

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