The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed the idea of reverting to the ballot paper system for elections, expressing strong confidence in Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). A two-judge bench, comprising Justice Sanjiv Khanna and Justice Dipankar Datta, questioned the petitioners raising concerns over the sanctity of voting through EVMs.

Responding to Advocate Prashant Bhushan, who appeared for the petitioner – NGO Association for Democratic Reforms seeking 100% verification of EVM votes with VVPAT slips, Justice Khanna emphasized their experience with the ballot paper era, stating, “Fortunately, we are now in our sixties. We have seen what used to happen earlier. Have you forgotten that? If you have forgotten that, I am sorry, I have not forgotten.”

Bhushan, according to an Indian Express report, had suggested the possibility of returning to the ballot paper system, citing examples from European countries and a judgment from the German constitutional court. However, Justice Datta rejected the comparison, highlighting the complexity of conducting elections in India compared to European countries.

“My home state West Bengal has more population than what Mr Bhushan said about Germany’s population. It’s a very small state… We have to repose some trust and confidence in somebody. Of course, they are accountable… But don’t try to bring down the system like this,” said Justice Datta.

The bench also raised questions regarding the functionality and security of EVMs, questioning the ADR submission claiming that a “majority of voters don’t trust EVMs.” Bhushan replied that it was a CSDS-Lokniti poll. “Poll! …Let’s not believe in these private polls,” Justice Datta was quoted by Indian Express as saying.

Bhushan argued that while they are not claiming current manipulation of EVMs, the potential for manipulation exists due to the programmable chip in both EVMs and VVPATs. He suggested allowing voters to physically deposit VVPAT slips and replacing opaque mirrored glass on EVMs with transparent glass.

According to the petitioners, the Election Commission of India had said it would take 12 days if all VVPAT slips were to be counted.

The Election Commission of India’s stance on the counting of VVPAT slips and the non-sharing of the EVM chip source code was also highlighted by Bhushan, raising further concerns about the transparency and integrity of the electoral process. He said the EVMs are assembled by two PSUs — Electronics Corporation of India Ltd and Bharat Electronics — which have many BJP office bearers as Directors.

Senior Advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan cited a news report pointing out discrepancies in the number of votes cast on EVMs and the number of votes counted during the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

“If there is any such discrepancy… each candidate will be given that data… the candidates would have immediately challenged it,” Justice Khanna said.

The hearing on the matter is set to resume on 18 April, as the bench continues to examine the various aspects of EVM functionality, security, and voter trust.

MTNews Desk

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