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SC Rejects Pleas For 100% EVM-VVPAT Verification, Allows Microcontroller Check On Request Of Runner-Up Candidates

The pleas demanded 100 per cent verification of votes cast on EVMs through VVPATs. 'The petitioners, which include NGO Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), have sought matching the count in EVMs with votes that have been verifiably "recorded as cast" and to ensure the voter is able to verify through VVPAT slip that his vote, as recorded on the paper slip, has been "counted as recorded".

PTI
Pronouncing the judgement, Justice Khanna said the court has rejected all the petitions, including those seeking resorting back to ballot papers in elections. Photo: PTI
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The Supreme Court on Friday rejected pleas for paper ballot voting, and also rejected the pleas seeking complete EVM-VVPAT verification and physical deposit of VVPAT slips. A batch of pleas sought 100 per cent cross-verification of votes cast using Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) with Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT).

A bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta delivered two concurring verdicts in the matter. Pronouncing the judgement, Justice Khanna said the court has rejected all the petitions, including those seeking resorting back to ballot papers in elections.

Justice Khanna, while pronouncing the verdict, said they have given two directions.

SC's Directions To EC

Seal SLU: "One is after the completion of symbol loading process, the Symbol Loading Unit [SLU] should be sealed. The SLU should be stored at least for a period of 45 days."

Burnt Memory Of EVM Microcontroller To Be Checked: Giving the second direction, Justice Khanna said: "The burnt memory in the microcontroller EVM shall be checked by a team of engineers after the declaration of results on a request by candidates in serial numbers 2 and 3, such a request to be made within seven days after the declaration of results." In simple terms, the Supreme Court allowed verification of microcontroller of EVMs by manufacturer after poll results on request of candidates who stand second and third.

'If EVM Found Tampered...': "The expenses for the verification [of the program] are to be borne by the candidates making the request, in case the EVM is found to be tampered, the expenses will be refunded," he said. Meaning, if an EVM is found tampered during verification, fee paid by candidates will be refunded.

Barcode For Each Party: Justice Khanna also asked the Election Commission to examine the suggestion for an electronic machine for vote counting the paper slips and whether along with the symbol there can be a barcode for each party.

Justice Datta, meanwhile, said "blindly distrusting a system can lead to unwarranted suspicions."

The top court had on Wednesday said it cannot "control the elections" or issue directions simply because doubts have been raised about the efficacy of Electronic Voting Machines (EVM), as it reserved its judgement on the clutch of petitions, which also claimed the polling devices can be tinkered with to manipulate the results.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday also sought clarification on a few things from the Election Commission on pleas seeking complete cross-verification of votes cast using Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) with Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT).

A bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta, which reserved its verdict on a batch of pleas seeking complete cross-verification of votes cast using EVMs with Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT), said it needs clarification on certain aspects as there was some confusion in answers given by the EC in its 'frequently asked questions' (FAQs) on EVMs.

What Is EVM, VVPAT

An Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) is a device for recording votes and is used in India for voting in elections. An EVM consists of two Units – a Control Unit and a Balloting Unit – joined by a five-meter cable. Since 2010, the Election Commission has been phasing in a third unit called the VVPAT or the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail, which allows voters to verify that their votes have been recorded correctly by printing a paper receipt.

Under an order by the Supreme Court of India, April 8, 2019, the Election Commission has mandated VVPAT slips count of five randomly selected polling stations in each assembly constituency/segment of the parliamentary constituency of the states/UTs by the returning officer, by draw of lot in presence of candidates/their counting agents and ECI observer, for verification of the result obtained from the control unit.

What Is The EVM-VVPAT Case About

The pleas demand 100 per cent verification of votes cast on EVMs through VVPATs. 'The petitioners, which include NGO Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), have sought matching the count in EVMs with votes that have been verifiably "recorded as cast" and to ensure the voter is able to verify through VVPAT slip that his vote, as recorded on the paper slip, has been "counted as recorded".

The petitioners, during the hearing, stressed that the measures to increase the confidence of the voters must be adopted, arguing that a few days delay in the declaration of results in a small price to pay for the larger goal of fair and transparent election process.

During the hearing, the bench also orally expressed reservations about the manual counting process, saying that human interventions can lead to problems.

A bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta is scheduled to pronounce the directions on the plea in which order was reserved by the apex court on April 18.

SC's 5 Questions To EC

  1. The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the EC whether the micro controller is installed in the controlling unit or in the VVPAT, saying, "There seems to be indication, we were under the impression that the microcontroller is in the Control Unit. We were told that VVPAT has a flash memory."

  2. "Second thing we wanted to know is the microcontroller installed is it one time programmable? Confirm that," the Supreme Court bench asked

  3. "Third thing is, you refer to Symbol Loading Units, how many of them are available?" Supreme Court said.

  4. "Fourth thing is, it was said limitation for election petition is 30 days and hence the data was stored for 45 days. But as per RP Act, the limitation period is 45 days. So the period for storage may have to be correspondingly increased?" LiveLaw quoted the Supreme Court bench as saying.

  5. "The other thing is whether the Control Unit only is sealed or the VVPAT is kept separately, that we want some clarification," the bench asked EC.

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