SC seeks EC reply in 3 weeks on NGO’s plea for cross verification of EVMs with VVPAT by voters

The Supreme Court on Monday sought the response of the Election Commission of India to a plea by an NGO seeking cross verification by the voters of votes cast by them as “counted as recorded” in the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) with Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT).

A bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Bela M Trivedi said it is not issuing notice to the Election Commission but only asking for a copy of the petition filed by NGO ‘Association for Democratic Reforms’ (ADR) to be served upon the standing counsel of the poll panel.

The bench asked the EC to file its reply within three weeks.

“We think that it appears to be a case of over suspicion. We sometimes tend to be overly suspicious on certain matters. We are sure that they (EC) might have taken steps to rectify any such problems, if they existed. Therefore, we are not issuing notice and only asking for the copy to be served,” the bench told advocate Prashant Bhushan, who appeared for the NGO.

Bhushan said he too acknowledges that sometimes the petitioner tends to be “over suspicious” as far as the hacking of EVMs is concerned but there are other ways by which the voting machines can be manipulated.

He said in a similar petition the bench had issued notice in 2019, and requested the court to tag the instant plea along with that. The bench granted Bhushan’s request.

In the instant petition, the NGO has sought direction to the poll panel and the Centre to ensure the voters are able to verify through VVPATs that their vote has been “counted as recorded”.

It also sought declaring as unconstitutional the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 and the practice and procedure of the Election Commission of India (ECI) to the extent that they violate the fundamental right of the voters to verify through VVPATs that their vote has been “recorded as cast” and “counted as recorded”.

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The plea said the requirement of the voters verifying that their votes have been “recorded as cast” is somewhat met when the VVPAT slip is displayed for about seven seconds after pressing the button on the EVM through a transparent window for the voters to verify that their vote has been recorded on the internally printed VVPAT slip before the slip falls into the ‘ballot box’.

“However, there is a complete vacuum in law as the ECI has provided no procedure for the voter to verify that her vote has been counted as recorded’ which is an indispensable part of voter verifiability. The failure of the ECI to provide for the same is in the teeth of purport and object of the directions issued by this Court in Subramanian Swamy versus Election Commission of India, (2013 verdict),” the plea said. 

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