Can’t control elections or pass directions on basis of suspicion, SC tells EVM critics

NEW DELHI, 24 Apr: The Supreme Court said on Wednesday it cannot “control the elections” or issue directions simply because doubts have been raised about the efficacy of Electronic Voting Machines (EVM), as it reserved its judgment on a clutch of petitions claiming the polling devices can be tinkered with to manipulate the results.

The court said it cannot change the thought process of those doubting the advantages of polling machines and advocating going back to ballot papers.

A bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna

 and Dipankar Datta reserved its verdict on a batch of pleas seeking complete cross-verification of votes cast using EVMs with Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT), after taking note of the answers to queries it had posed to the Election Commission.

It sought answers from an official of the poll panel to five questions related to the functioning of EVMs including whether the microcontrollers fitted in them are reprogrammable.

Senior Deputy Election Commissioner Nitesh Kumar Vyas, who had earlier made a presentation to the court on the functioning of EVMs, was summoned by the bench to appear at 2 p.m. to answer the queries.

Vyas, while responding to the question about microcontrollers, said they are one-time programmable at the time of manufacture and installed in all the three units of EVMs-the balloting unit, VVPAT and the control unit. They cannot be reprogrammed thereafter, he asserted.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for petitioner NGO ‘Association for Democratic Reforms’, claimed the EC official’s statement was not fully correct. He cited a report by a private body to back his contention.

The apex court had in April 2019 asked the poll panel to increase the number of EVMs that undergo VVPAT physical verification from one to five per assembly segment in a parliamentary constituency.

One of the petitioners has sought each and every vote cast to be tallied with the VVPAT slips.