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The court questioned the Election Commission about the voting process, EVM storage, and vote counting, highlighting the lack of strict punishment for EVM tampering.

Supreme Court addressed petitions requesting cross-verification of Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) votes with VVPAT-generated paper slips, highlighting concerns regarding the traditional secret ballot voting method on Tuesday.

“We are in our 60s. We all know what happened when there were ballot papers, you may have, but we have not forgotten,” Justice Sanjiv Khanna said to Prashant Bhushan, representing the petitioner Association for Democratic Reforms. Bhushan was illustrating how several European nations that transitioned to EVMs have reverted to paper ballots.

“We could revert to paper ballots as an option. Alternatively, we could provide VVPAT slips directly to voters. Otherwise, the slips go into the machine and then can be handed to voters to place into the ballot box. Initially, the VVPAT design was transparent glass, but it was later changed to dark opaque mirror glass, visible only when lit for a few seconds,” Mr. Bhushan suggested.

When citing Germany as an example, Justice Dipankar Datta inquired about its population. Bhushan responded, estimating around 60 million, compared to India’s 500-600 million voters.

“We have a total of 970 million registered voters. We all remember the challenges of the ballot paper era,” Justice Khanna remarked.

When Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde proposed tallying EVM votes with VVPAT slips, Justice Khanna humorously responded, “So, we should count 600 million VVPAT slips, right?”

The judge acknowledged that human intervention could introduce errors and biases, stating that machines typically provide accurate results unless tampered with. He invited suggestions to prevent such tampering.

Bhushan referenced a research paper on EVM tampering, criticizing the limited sampling of VVPAT machines during counting and the potential for manipulation with the seven-second light. He proposed allowing voters to deposit VVPAT slips into the ballot box.

Senior Advocate Gopal Sankaranarayan endorsed Bhushan’s remarks, emphasizing the importance of voter confidence in the electoral process.

The court questioned the Election Commission about the voting process, EVM storage, and vote counting, highlighting the lack of strict punishment for EVM tampering. “This is a serious issue. There should be a deterrent,” Justice Khanna asserted.

Justice Dipankar Datta cautioned against comparing Indian elections to those in foreign countries, urging trust in the system and discouraging the citation of European examples.

What Is VVPAT and What Is The Case

The Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) assures voters of verifying if their votes were correctly cast for their chosen candidate. It generates a paper slip, securely enclosed, which can be accessed in case of any dispute. Amidst concerns and inquiries from the opposition regarding the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) system, petitions have been filed advocating for the cross-verification of every vote.

These petitions, filed by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and activist Arun Kumar Agarwal, address critical issues. Mr. Agarwal specifically calls for the counting of all VVPAT slips. Meanwhile, the ADR’s petition urges the court to direct the Election Commission and the government to ensure that voters can verify through VVPATs that their votes have been accurately recorded. The petition highlights the necessity for voters to confirm that their votes have been “counted as recorded,” a crucial aspect of voter verifiability.

The plea emphasizes a legal void, noting the absence of a procedure for voters to verify that their votes have been accurately recorded—a significant part of ensuring voter confidence. It criticizes the Election Commission’s failure to address this issue, citing it as contradictory to the directives outlined by the Supreme Court in the Subramanian Swamy versus Election Commission of India verdict of 2013.

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