New Delhi: On Monday, January 7, the Supreme Court instructed the Election Commission to respond to a plea pertaining to casting of votes in Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) through the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trial. The petition was filed by Tamil Nadu resident, M G Devasahayam along with two others, who have sought mandatory verification of at least 30% of votes cast in every poll starting from general elections 2019.
The matter was heard before a bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, who issued the notice to the poll commission.
Appearing for the petitioners, Advocate Prasanna S, through the petition contested the constitutionality of the system of cross verification and tallying of VVPAT slips. The petitioners claimed it inefficient to confine the process of accounting votes to merely one EVM per constituency across the entire country. Furthermore, the petition stated that for an advanced and modern democratic nation like India, it is essential that the voting process shall be in sync with technological advancements, but at the same time shall be accountable for asymmetries in information and voting capacity, thereby facilitating meaningful use of VVPATs. Citing examples of several nations, the petitioner reiterated how countries like Germany, Canada and Finland have chosen to avoid the electronic system.
It is pertinent to note that the petitioners have not raised any objection regarding the validity of elections held so far in the country. However, the plea has been instituted with the objective of carrying out voting without any unfair means being involved. Previously in October 2013, in the case of Subramaniam Swamy, the Supreme Court with the intent to protect the sanctity of the election process, held that paper trial was an indispensable requirement of free and fair election.
Moreover, the petitioner urged the Court to direct the Returning Officer under a mandatory obligation to hand count all the VVPAT slips of poll stations wherein the margin of victory is very narrow and less than 3%.
Voting must be carried out with complete integrity and fairness. Therefore, the Court observed that EVMs along with VVPAT system shall be set up to provide for transparency in voting system and in order to restore the confidence of the voters.