SC order step forward in ensuring credibility of election process

The ECI had opposed 100% tallying saying the manual process would be time consuming.
Supreme Court of India
Supreme Court of IndiaFile Photo | PTI

The Supreme Court’s judgement on cross-verification of votes recorded in the electronic voting machines (EVMs) with voter verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) slips is a step forward in strengthening the credibility of EVMs. The order has come in response to a batch of petitions drawing the apex court’s attention to the possibility of manipulating the EVMs and seeking its intervention to improve the process.

The court has, in its order, taken forward its decisions in two earlier cases—Subramanian Swamy vs Election Commission of India and N Chandrababu Naidu & Others vs Union of India & Another. In its decision on the Subramanian Swamy case, the court introduced VVPATs saying “paper trail is an indispensable requirement of free and fair elections”.

In the Chandrababu Naidu order, it increased the cross-verification of votes recorded by EVMs with VVPAT slips to five randomly selected polling stations per assembly segment of every constituency.

In its latest judgment, the SC has taken the verification process even further by ruling that after the results are announced in a parliamentary election, if the candidates who stand at No 2 and No 3 have any doubts about the result, they can demand 5 percent of the EVMs per assembly segment in a parliamentary constituency to be verified for any tampering or modification.

It has also ordered that the ‘symbol loading units’ be sealed and secured after the process is over, and the same be stored for 45 days after the results are announced for cross verification.

While rejecting the demand for 100 percent cross-verification of VVPAT slips with the votes recorded in the EVMs and giving access to voters to the VVPAT slips, it has left the option for 100 % cross-verification to the Election Commission of India asking it to examine the possibility of introducing an electronic machine for counting the VVPAT slips. The ECI had opposed 100% tallying saying the manual process would be time consuming.

The apex court has heard several petitions on EVMs over the years filed by political parties and organisations working for electoral reforms but appellants have failed to put up a cogent case for going back to ballot paper. The EVMs have ensured higher voter participation and there has been no proof of tampering. All political parties need to be mindful that their repeated questioning of the EVMs may create doubts among the voters about the integrity of the electoral process.

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The New Indian Express