SUPREME COURT OF INDIA ISSUES DIRECTIONS TO ELECTION COMMISSION OF INDIA TO INCREASE THE NUMBER OF ELECTRONIC VOTING MACHINES IN RESPECT OF WHICH VOTER VERIFIABLE PAPER SLIPS WOULD BE VERIFIED

In a recent case of N Chandrababu Naidu & Ors vs Union of India and another 2019, the Supreme Court has directed the Election Commission of India (ECI) to increase the number of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), in respect of which Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trails (VVPAT) paper slips would be physically verified.

According to ECI, Electronic Voting Machine (also known as EVM) is voting using electronic means to either aid or take care of the chores of casting and counting votes. Whereas, VVPAT is said to be an electro-mechanical machine, that contains a paper roll, a motor to run it, a system to print and cut the VVPAT slip. As soon as voters press a button against a candidate on the EVM to cast their vote, the VVPAT machine displays a printed VVPAT slip, for approximately 7 seconds, that contains the candidate’s serial number, name, corresponding symbol, thereby, allowing the voters to verify their respective votes. The VVPAT paper roll is said to be designed for printing 1,500 ballot slips for each election.

Therefore, in general, VVPAT machines are designed for the purpose of verification of votes by the respective voters and thus, to ensure that there is transparency and credibility of the election process. But they are used by polling officers as well for the purpose of counting the VVPAT paper slips in order to verify the result obtained from the control unit of the EVM. Eventually, ECI made it mandatory to verify the counting of VVPAT paper slips in one randomly selected polling station in each Assembly Constituency/each Assembly Segment of Parliamentary Constituency.

In the aforesaid case, the Petitioners had sought for verification of VVPAT paper trail of 50% of the EVMs. But as per ECI, the verification of VVPAT paper trail of one EVM is done by a team of three Officers under the direct supervision of the Returning Officer appointed by ECI for smooth conduct of elections and that the whole process takes about an hour. But verification of VVPAT paper trail of 50% of the EVMs may delay the declaration of the result of election by 5-6 days.

The Supreme Court held that even if the number of EVMs, in respect of which VVPAT paper slips are to be verified and subjected to physical scrutiny, is increased from 1 to 5, the ECI would still be in a position to provide the additional manpower that would be required and as a result, there would be no delay in the declaration of the result of the election. This would help to attain a greater degree of satisfaction with regard to the accuracy of the election results. Thus, the Apex Court directed that 5 randomly selected EVMs would now be subjected to verification so far as VVPAT paper trail is concerned in each Assembly Constituency/each Assembly Segment of Parliamentary Constituency.

Harini Daliparthy

Senior Legal Associate

The Indian Lawyer

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