The Supreme Court with its timely decision last month negated some vested interests’ move to play their old playbook of casting aspersion against EVMs as the court clearly said doubting a system can breed scepticism
On April 26, India’s Supreme Court upheld the credibility of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and their integration with the Voter-Verifiable Paper Audit Trials (VVPATs). The apex court also rejected the demand for 100% verification of the paper trail left by the votes cast through the EVMs.
In the process, the Supreme Court, also rejected the demand of petitioners to revert to ballot paper system for voting, which the Election Commission of India dispensed with it several years ago as it was associated with vulnerabilities—from fake ballot papers and fake voters’ names to booth capturing and other electoral malpractices.
The Supreme Court said, “While balanced perspective is important but blindly doubting a system can breed scepticism and thus, meaningful criticism is needed.” The country’s top court further said, “Be it judiciary, legislature etc, democracy is all about maintaining harmony and trust among all the pillars. By nurturing a culture of trust and collaboration, we can strengthen the voice of our democracy.”
Credibility of EVMs
In plain words, it was a message to those who repeatedly question the credibility of EVMs even though, till date none has been able to prove any fallacies in the system despite being challenged by the Election Commission of India.
In 2013, the ECI formally incorporated VVPAT machines in the electoral systems. This was done to ensure an additional layer of verifiability in the country’s electoral process. It should be noted that VVPAT is a gadget that produces a paper slip, visible to a voter on the screen of the gadget for a few seconds before it gets stored in a sealed drop-box.
In fact, the paper slip produced by VVPAT machine, helps the voter in knowing that he or she has cast a vote to a candidate of his or her choice. It then becomes a part of the audit trail.
Following the Supreme Court’s direction in 2019, a random matching of VVPAT slips with EVMs took place in five polling booths per assembly segment.
Of the 1.73 million VVPAT machines deployed, slips from 20,625 VVPAT machines were physically counted and it did not find a single case of mismatch between the VVPAT slip and the EVM count. A vote cannot be changed or manipulated once it has been cast and this is what the exercise showed.
The integrity of the EVMs has been upheld in various courts’ judgements. The Madras High Court in its 2001 judgement, the Kerala High Court in 2002, the Delhi High Court in 2004, the Karnataka High Court in 2004 and the Bombay High Court in 2004 backed the technological soundness of EVMs.
In September 2022, the Supreme Court bench comprising Justices S K Kaul and A S Oka rejected a petition calling for banning EVMs and switching back to the older system of voting through ballot paper.
While dismissing the petition, the court had then said that while “EVM process has been utilized for decades now, issues are periodically sought to be raised, and the present petition is one such endeavour in abstract.” The court had also slapped a fine of Rs 50,000 on the petitioner, a Madhya Pradesh-based Jan Vikas Party, stating that the petition was filed to gain publicity.
Selective scepticism
Experts say whatever campaign is against EVMs, it is not fact-driven. It is a rather malicious attempt to target the Election Commission of India which has successfully conducted elections through EVMs for years.
The ongoing parliamentary elections are the fifth since 2004 to have the universal use of EVMs—hailed as a uniquely Indian innovation that has transformed the way the polls are conducted in the country.
What, however, is surprising is that those who question the trustworthiness of the voting machine, find no fault with it when they win elections.
Analysts term it as selective scepticism of some groups. A closer analysis of their approach towards EVMs shows that they do this to cover their failures.
The Supreme Court with its timely decision last month negated some vested interests’ move to play their old playbook of casting aspersion against EVMs. The court maintained that EVMs added by VVPATs provide a reliable and temper-proof method of voting.