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Supreme Court to Hear Petitions for 100% Cross-Verification of VVPAT with EVMs


The Supreme Court has agreed to hear petitions that seek 100% cross-verification of the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips with the vote count as per Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). This decision comes in response to concerns raised about the accuracy and integrity of the electronic voting system and aims to enhance transparency and confidence in the electoral process. The hearing underscores the court’s commitment to ensuring fair and transparent elections and will likely have significant implications for future electoral procedures and safeguards in India.


GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article

  1. History of the Voting Process in India
  2. International Voting Practices
  3. Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) Machines
  4. How has the Performance of EVMs been?
  5. Strategies to Enhance the Robustness of the Voting Process

History of the Voting Process in India

First Two General Elections (1952 and 1957)

  • Separate boxes were provided for each candidate with their election symbol.
  • Voters dropped a blank ballot paper into the box of their chosen candidate.

Third General Election

  • Introduction of the ballot paper with names of candidates and their symbols.
  • Voters put a stamp on the candidate of their choice.

Introduction of Electronic Voting Machines (EVM)

  • EVMs were introduced on a trial basis in 1982 in the Paravur Assembly constituency in Kerala.
  • Fully deployed in all booths during the Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Puducherry, and West Bengal in 2001.
  • Used in all 543 constituencies in the 2004 general elections to the Lok Sabha.

Introduction of Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT)

  • In the case of Subramanian Swamy versus Election Commission of India (2013), the Supreme Court ruled that a paper trail is essential for free and fair elections.
  • In the 2019 general elections, EVMs were backed with 100% VVPAT in all constituencies.

International Voting Practices

  • Western Democracies
    • Many western democracies still use paper ballots for their elections.
  • Countries that discontinued EVMs
    • England, France, The Netherlands, and the U.S. have stopped using EVMs for national or federal elections after trials in the last two decades.
  • Germany
    • The German Supreme Court declared the use of EVMs in elections unconstitutional in 2009.
  • EVM Usage in Other Countries
    • Brazil uses EVMs for their elections.
  • India’s Neighbours
    • Pakistan: Does not use EVMs.
    • Bangladesh: Experimented with EVMs in a few constituencies in 2018 but reverted to paper ballots for the general elections in 2024.

Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) Machines:

  • VVPAT is an independent verification printer that is attached to electronic voting machines (EVMs).
  • Its purpose is to allow voters to verify that their votes have been recorded accurately.
  • As soon as a voter presses the button on the EVM, the VVPAT machine prints a slip containing the name and symbol of the party they voted for, which is visible to the voter for around 7 seconds.
  • VVPAT Machines were first introduced in India during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections to increase transparency and eliminate doubts about the accuracy of EVMs.
  • Only polling officers have access to the VVPAT machines.
  • According to the Election Commission of India (ECI), EVMs and VVPATs are separate entities and are not connected to any network.

Challenges with VVPAT machines:

Technical malfunctions:

  • Possibility of technical malfunctions is a primary concern with VVPAT machines.
  • Malfunctions can result in inaccurate printing or no printing of the paper receipt of the vote cast by the voter.

Verification of paper trails:

  • Verification of paper trails generated by the VVPAT machines is another challenge.
  • It is not always clear how this record can be verified, especially in cases of discrepancies between electronic and paper records.

Public confidence:

  • Recent reports of defective VVPAT machines have eroded public confidence in the electoral process.
  • Lack of transparency and accountability on the part of the EC has raised questions about the fairness and accuracy of elections.

Legal mandate:

  • The Supreme Court in Dr. Subramanian Swamy v ECI (2013) held that VVPAT is an “indispensable requirement of free and fair elections”.

How has the Performance of EVMs been?

  • Despite dire warnings regarding malpractices and EVM hacking, there has been no concrete evidence of any actual tampering with EVMs thus far.
  • While EVMs, like any machinery, have experienced glitches and have been promptly replaced in case of malfunctions, the assertion that they are susceptible to hacking or manipulation, despite the presence of existing technical and administrative safeguards, has been made without substantiated proof.
  • Sample counting of VVPATs, conducted during both the general election in 2019 and various Assembly elections, has indicated that the discrepancy between the VVPAT recount and the EVM count has been negligible.
  • Such discrepancies often stem from minor errors such as failure to delete mock polls from the machine before the voting process or inaccuracies in manually recording the final count from the machine.

Strategies to Enhance the Robustness of the Voting Process

Scientific Sampling for EVM and VVPAT Matching

  • Adopt a scientific approach to determine the sample size for matching the EVM count with VVPAT slips.
  • A 100% match between EVM count and VVPAT slips is unscientific and cumbersome.
    • Error Resolution:
      • If even a single error is detected, all VVPAT slips for the concerned region should be fully counted to determine the results.
      • This approach will instill statistically significant confidence in the counting process.

Introduction of Totaliser Machines

  • Implement ‘totaliser’ machines at the booth level to aggregate votes from 15-20 EVMs before revealing the candidate-wise count.
  • This would provide a degree of cover for voters at the booth level and enhance the integrity of the voting process.

-Source: The Hindu

May 2024