EVM-VVPAT case: Review petition filed in Supreme Court | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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EVM-VVPAT case: Review petition filed in Supreme Court

May 13, 2024 05:32 PM IST

The top court had on April 26 dismissed a bunch of petitions demanding 100% cross-verification of votes cast on EVMs with VVPATs, emphasising the simplicity, security and user-friendliness of EVMs

A review petition has been filed in the Supreme Court, challenging the judgment in the EVM-VVPAT case where the prayer for 100% cross-verification of Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) data with Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) records was turned down.

A review petition is considered by judges in their chambers, without oral arguments. (File photo)
A review petition is considered by judges in their chambers, without oral arguments. (File photo)

Arun Kumar Agarwal filed the petition, contending errors apparent in the judgment.

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According to the review petition filed through advocate Neha Rathi, the court’s April 26 judgment overlooked the vulnerability of symbol loading units (SLUs) and the necessity for their audit. Agarwal claimed that the possibility of additional data in the SLU beyond necessary images was disregarded by the court.

It added that the judgment erroneously recorded that the percentage of VVPAT slips counted for tallying with EVM votes is 5% whereas it is less than 2%. The plea also contested a determination in the ruling that the 100% matching of EVM-VVPAT data would cause a delay in the poll results being declared.

Also Read: Supreme Court affirms sanctity of EVMs, paper trail system

“The petitioner submits that electronic voting machines do not allow voters to verify that their votes have been accurately recorded. Furthermore, given their very nature, electronic voting machines are especially vulnerable to malicious changes by insiders such as designers, programmers, manufacturers, maintenance technicians, etc,” added the plea.

A review petition is considered by judges in their chambers, without oral arguments.

The top court had on April 26 dismissed a bunch of petitions demanding 100% cross-verification of votes cast on EVMs with VVPATs, emphasising the simplicity, security and user-friendliness of EVMs.

Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta, in their concurrent opinions, affirmed the credibility of EVMs and highlighted the stringent safeguards by the Election Commission of India (ECI) for free and fair elections.

The judges asserted that the Supreme Court cannot allow the entire process of the ongoing general elections to be called into question and upended on mere apprehension and speculation.

The judgments also focussed on the practical challenges inherent in conducting elections in India, highlighting the extensive logistical operations required to ensure access to remote and diverse voting locations, and commending the ECI for putting in place a stringent system of checks and balances to prevent any possibility of a miscount of votes.

Addressing concerns raised during the hearing, the bench proposed two forward-looking directions to enhance transparency in the electoral system while clarifying that such directions do not have the effect of interrupting, protracting or stalling the counting of votes for the ongoing Lok Sabha elections.

The court directed the sealing and secure storage of symbol loading units (SLUs) in the strong room along with EVMs for 45 days post the declaration of results. Additionally, it ordered verification of burnt memory or microcontrollers in 5% of EVMs per constituency segment upon a written complaint by two runner-up candidates within seven days of the poll result.

The bench rejected the petitions filed by non-profit Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and activist Agarwal, dismissing calls to return to the ballot paper system. Justice Khanna highlighted the advantages of EVMs, including curbing booth capturing and reducing invalid votes.

In a concurrent judgment, justice Datta criticised ADR’s plea to return to the ballot paper system, questioning its intention to discredit the voting system. He emphasised the need to avoid regressive measures and maintain public trust in the electoral process.

The integration of VVPAT with EVMs gained legal prominence following a petition by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy after the 2009 general elections.

The VVPAT system was declared an “indispensable requirement” for free and fair elections by the Supreme Court in its landmark 2013 judgment.

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