Supreme Court Rejects Petitions for 100% VVPAT Verification and Ballot Voting

The Supreme Court of India has dismissed all petitions demanding 100% verification of votes through Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips and those advocating for a return to ballot paper voting. The court’s decision solidifies the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) amid ongoing debates over their reliability and security.

In a significant verdict, the apex court issued two major directives concerning the handling and scrutiny of EVMs. First, it mandated that the Symbol Loading Unit (SLU) must be sealed after the completion of the symbol loading process and preserved for at least 45 days. Additionally, it allowed candidates to request access to the microcontroller program of the EVMs used in their election within seven days of the result declaration. This move is intended to ensure transparency but will be at the candidate’s expense.

The court’s decision came after two days of consecutive hearings, concluding on April 18, with the verdict reserved for later announcement. The re-listing of the case occurred on Wednesday when the Supreme Court sought clarifications from the Election Commission on certain issues.

During the proceedings, Deputy Election Commissioner Nitesh Vyas clarified to the court that all three units of the EVM — the voting, control, and VVPAT units — are equipped with microcontrollers that are not reprogrammable and physically inaccessible post-programming. These machines are typically secured for 45 days post-election, with extensions available if election petitions are filed.

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The Supreme Court emphasized that it cannot change the opinions of those skeptical about EVMs or advocate returning to ballot papers. The justices noted that while they sought clarity on the functioning of EVMs, their aim was not to question the technology per se but to ensure that their decision was based on accurate and comprehensive information.

The court’s rulings underline its stance that it does not have the authority to regulate elections nor act as a controller for constitutional bodies. Legal provisions exist to address misconduct, and the court cannot issue orders based merely on suspicion.

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