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SC Rejects Pleas For 100% Verification Of EVM Votes With VVPAT slips

However, two directives issued to allay the apprehension of candidates and strengthen the existing mechanism

The Supreme Court of India on Friday (26.04.2024) dismissed a clutch of petitions seeking the complete cross-verification of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) votes with Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trails (VVPATs). It also rejected pleas for return to the ballot paper system for elections.

A bench of justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta, delivering separate but concurring judgment, said that the court had elaborately discussed the protocols and technical aspects before rejecting the request for 100 per cent verification of EVM votes with VVPAT slips. Expressing confidence in the current electoral mechanisms, the bench emphasised that mere suspicion is not enough to question a system pivotal to the democratic process of the world’s largest democracy.

However, it observed that “One suggestion which can be examined by the Election Commission of India would be whether there can be electronic machines for counting paper slips and whether there can be a bar code along with the symbols as regards which party.”

The court issued two directives to allay the apprehension of the candidates in the fray and strengthen the existing mechanism.

It said that the containers carrying the symbol loading unit should be sealed in the presence of the candidates or their polling agents and be kept secured for 45 days – the period for which the control unit, ballot unit, and VVPATs candidates are preserved for enabling candidates to file election petitions against the poll result.

Second, the court ordered that if any candidate files a written complaint within seven days of the poll results, casting doubt on the process’s dependability, the control unit, ballot unit, and VVPATs would be examined by the engineers of the EVM manufacturing companies following the results announcement.

During the hearing, Justice Datta said that while maintaining a balanced perspective is crucial in evaluating systems or institutions, blindly distrusting any aspect of the system can breed unwarranted scepticism and impede progress.

The petitions filed by the non-profit Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and activist Arun Kumar Agarwal had sought a more comprehensive approach to casting and counting of votes.

Agarwal advocated the counting of all VVPAT slips to ensure transparency. ADR’s petition focussed on enabling voters to confirm that their votes are accounted for as they are cast. The petitions also sought that voters be permitted to physically deposit their VVPAT slips in ballot boxes.

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