Pleas seeking EVMs to be cross verified with VVPATs: Supreme Court reserves verdict

"We do not have to be suspicious about everything," said a two-judge bench of the top court during the hearing
Supreme Court of India
Supreme Court of IndiaFile Photo | PTI

A day ahead of the first phase of the Lok Sabha elections, the Supreme Court on Thursday reserved its verdict on a batch of petitions seeking direction to the Election Commission of India (ECI) and the Centre to ensure that voters are able to verify through VVPATs that their vote has been been "counted as recorded".

"We do not have to be suspicious about everything. Everything can't be suspected. You can't be critical of everything", a two-judge bench of the top court, led by Justice Sanjiv Khanna, told advocate Prashant Bhushan, lawyer for one of the petitioners, during the hearing of the EVM-VVPAT case.

During the course of the hearing today in the pre-lunch session, Bhushan, appearing for one of the petitioners, cited a report on mock poll results of Kerala where extra votes for BJP were found recorded yesterday. He alleged, as per a media story, that at least four electronic voting machines (EVM) erroneously registered votes in favour of the BJP during mock polling in Kasaragod on Wednesday.

The apex court bench, after hearing the allegations of Bhushan, directed the ECI to examine and inquire into them.

Post lunch, the ECI made it clear to the top court that the Kasaragod incident cited by the petitioner's lawyer (Bhushan) was not correct. The allegations are based on the result of a machine which does not belong to the ECI, it said.

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On the main issue of the batch of pleas, senior advocate Maninder Singh, appearing for the ECI, said that the EVMs are standalone machines and cannot be tampered with. The VVPATs could also not be tampered with. Human error could not be ruled out in manual counting but it has been minimized. "No EVM tampering/mismatch between votes polled and counted is possible," he told the SC.

"After completion of poll, the Presiding Officer presses the 'Close' button. Thereafter the EVM does not accept any vote. Poll 'start time' and 'end time' are recorded in the machine as well as by the Presiding Officer," Singh told the apex court.

Advocate S Stephen, another lawyer for a petitioner, said that the VVPAT and EVM count should happen simultaneously and the votes should be tallied. If there is discrepancy then it must be looked into, he said.

Stephen further said that digital data can be manipulated, but paper slips can't, so the latter should prevail in case of discrepancy. 100% tally is the need of the hour, he said.

An official of the ECI demonstrated and told the apex court that it was impossible to tamper with the EVMs and the likelihood was almost negligible and tried to convince the court that the pleas filed were without any proof.

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