Arshdeep kaur

SC bench points out manipulation risk with EVMs, advocates for stringent punishment to prevent tampering during voting process.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday was hearing a batch of petitions seeking cross-verification of votes cast through VVPAT (Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail), when it pointed out the going back to paper ballot for 2024 Lok Sabha election is not the right solution.

VVPAT unit produces a paper slip that is visible to the voter via a transparent screen for about seven seconds before it gets stored in a sealed drop box.

Senior advocate Prashant Bhushan was appearing for the petitioner Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR). He gave the apex court three alternatives to the present EVM system of voting.

A bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta, hearing the petitions, said unless there is fear of stringent punishment, there will always be a possibility of a manipulation or tampering with the EVMs (Electronic voting machines).

Here are the highlight's of the EVM-VVPAT case:

  • "We can go back to paper ballots," Bhushan suggested. Another option, Bhushan said, is to give VVPAT slip to the voters in hand and then can be put into the ballot box.
  • Bhushan also suggested a change in VVPAT design. “It had to be a transparent glass but it was changed to dark opaque mirror glass where it is only visible when the light is on for 7 seconds."
  • "We all know what happened when there was ballot papers," said Justice Khanna.
  • Senior Adv Sanjay Hegde suggested the votes on EVM should be tallied with VVPAT slips.. "ECI says 12 days will be taken to count all the VVPAT Slips.
  • Barcode for voting was also suggested, to which Justice Khanna said barcode will not help in counting unless each candidate or party is given a barcode and "that is also a humongous exercise".
  • Supreme Court said that normally human interventions lead to problems, but machine without human intervention will give you accurate results.
  • "Yes, the problem arises when there is human intervention or makes unauthorised changes when they are around the software or machine," Justice Khanna said.
  • The apex court also asked if there's any punishment for tampering with or manipulating EVMs. "Suppose there is some manipulation what the punishment prescribed. That is serious thing. There should be a fear that if something wrong is done then there will be punishment," Supreme Court remarked.
  • To this, the Election Commission of India said that the EVM tampering is handled under the breach of office punishment only. 
  • "We are not on the procedure. There is no specific provision with regard to manipulation done, if at all," Justice Khanna said.
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