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Supreme Court Rejects 100% VVPAT Verification


The Supreme Court dismissed the demand for 100% verification of Voter Verified Paper Audit Trails (VVPATs) in Indian elections. Additionally, it rejected a return to the earlier ballot paper system, which had been demanded by opposition parties in recent years.


GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Recent VVPAT-EVM Tally Case
  2. SC Ruling in the VVPAT-EVM Tally Case
  3. Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) Machines:

Recent VVPAT-EVM Tally Case:

  • In 2023, ADR filed a petition with the Supreme Court advocating for cross-verification of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) with Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) to ensure fair elections.
  • The petition, along with others, called for 100% verification of EVM votes using VVPAT.
  • ADR proposed the use of barcodes on VVPAT slips to expedite the verification process.

SC Ruling in the VVPAT-EVM Tally Case:

  • The Supreme Court rejected the demand for 100% VVPAT verification but upheld confidence in the electoral process, rejecting a return to the ballot paper system.
  • However, the court issued two directions and suggestions to the Election Commission of India (ECI) to enhance electoral integrity.

First Direction:

  • Directed the ECI to seal and store symbol loading units (SLUs) for 45 days post results declaration.
  • SLUs are memory units used to load candidate symbols onto VVPAT machines.

Second Direction:

  • Allowed candidates to request EVM verification post-election, a first-time provision.
  • Engineers must inspect the EVM microcontroller’s burnt memory upon request from second and third-place candidates within 7 days of results declaration.
  • Candidates bear expenses, refundable if tampering is confirmed.

Suggestion on VVPAT:

  • Proposed examining the possibility of machine counting VVPAT slips using barcodes for efficiency.

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 cou

-Source: Indian Express

May 2024