Millennium Post
Team MP
New Delhi

The Supreme Court on Tuesday expressed disapproval of critiques aimed at Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and discouraged suggestions to return to paper ballots. Describing India’s electoral process as a “humongous task,” the court cautioned against efforts to undermine the system.

The court reminisced about the ballot paper era, marred by booth capturing and election manipulation. The hearing involved pleas for thorough verification of EVM votes with Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips, ensuring each vote’s accuracy.

Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta expressed scepticism towards the notion that European nations have reverted to ballot papers.

“This is a humongous task. No European country can do this. You talked about Germany but what is the population there. My home state West Bengal is far more populous than Germany. We have to repose faith and trust in the electoral process. Don’t try to bring down the system like this,” Justice Datta told advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for NGO ‘Association for Democratic Reforms’.

Bhushan had pitched for a return to ballot papers while citing the German example.

The bench, however, highlighted India’s vast electorate of approximately 98 crore voters and acknowledged the possibility of minor discrepancies due to human error, which can be addressed.

Justice Khanna, while referring to booth capturing in the past, said, “Mr. Bhushan, we are all in our 60s. We have seen what used to happen earlier when there were no EVMs. We don’t need to tell you.”

Bhushan clarified that his concerns were not accusations of manipulation but the potential vulnerability of EVMs.

Normally, human intervention in a process creates problems including bias, while machines, without any wrong human intervention, work properly and give accurate results, Justice Khanna told Bhushan.

The court questioned Election Commission officials on EVM functionality, storage, and security against data manipulation. It sought comprehensive details on EVM management from assembly to post-count storage. Bhushan said he also wants every voter to be allowed to collect the paper slip of his vote cast from the VVPAT machine and drop it into the ballot box. He also sought reversal of the poll panel’s decision to replace the transparent glass on VVPAT machines with an opaque glass through which a voter can see the slip only when the light is on for seven seconds.

He alleged that two public sector undertakings--Bharat Electronic Ltd and Electronics Corporation of India Ltd (ECILL)--have as its directors people who are associated with ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

The bench asked Singh whether it is possible to subject EVMs to technical evaluation to rule out any foul play after the counting of votes is over.

Singh urged the court to not indicate any such thing without hearing the poll panel on the issue as it would create unnecessary confusion. “Don’t be apprehensive. We are not indicating any such thing but are only soliciting a response,” Justice Khanna told Singh. The bench also asked the poll panel to apprise it about the punishment prescribed under the law for someone who manipulates EVMs.

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