Supreme Court wants Centre, Election Commission reply on plea against electronic voting machines

Supreme Court Of India

New Delhi, April 13: The Apex Court of India asked the central government and the Election Commission (EC) on Thursday to respond to petitions asking for paper trails on all electronic voting machines (EVMs) amid increasing controversy over the instrument that transformed polling in India.

A bench headed by Justice J Chelameswar asked them to respond to the plea by May 8.

The Supreme Court was hearing petitions filed by the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) that has alleged large-scale tampering of electronic voting machines (EVMs) aided the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in its extensive victory in Uttar Pradesh assembly polls last month.

During the hearing, senior advocate P Chidambaram, appearing for the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), told the bench that use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) without voter-verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) in the elections creates a serious doubt about the accuracy of voting and paper trail was required so that a voter can get a feedback of the vote cast by him.

He said that to assure accuracy in the voting process, a paper trail is needed as there were chances of tampering with electronic voting machines (EVMs) as there were reports that both the hardware and software of these machines are “vulnerable”, PTI reported.

“The views of technicians working in this field are important and any of what political parties say,” the supreme court said. “The electronic voting machines (EVMs) is a remedy for a lot of ills.”

“There is no way that a voter can verify as to whether the vote cast by him has gone to the candidate he wished to vote. Without a paper trail (VVPAT), there is no way to verify it. In electronic voting machines (EVMs), a voter is only pressing the button and he does not know whether the machine is recording his voting correctly or not,” advocate P Chidambaram said.

At the chore end of the hearing, senior advocate and Indian National Congress leader Kapil Sibal told the supreme court that Congress party also wants to intervene in the matter.

The row of electronic voting machines (EVMs) was back in the headlines after allegations in Madhya Pradesh’s Ater – where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is fighting the Congress in an assembly byelection — that a device registered votes only for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) during a media demonstration.

The government and the Election Commission (EC) have dismissed the charges and the poll panel has even challenged anyone to hack an instrument after Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said he needed 72 hours to prove electronic voting machines (EVMs) could be tampered with.

Electronic voting machines (EVMs) were introduced in India more than a decade ago as a low-cost answer to charges of booth capturing and irregularities in paper ballots. The machines cut down counting time to just a few hours, made logistics easier and more user-friendly. But in recent months, concerns have been raised about possible breaches in its software and security mechanism.