ECI directed to ensure paper trail in EVMs

The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Election Commission to use voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) facility in electronic voting machines (EVMs) in a phased manner in the coming elections as it would ensure transparency.

A Bench of Chief Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice Ranjan Gogoi passed this order while disposing of a petition filed by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, seeking a direction to the EC in this regard.

The Bench noted that under VVPAT “as soon as a vote is recorded by a voter by pressing the candidate’s button on the ballot unit, a light glows against the name and symbol of the candidate, which the voter can see for himself/ herself. This is a visual [electronic] assurance to the voter that the candidate for whom he has cast his vote has actually got that vote. Thereafter, the light goes off to protect the secrecy of voting.”

Writing the judgment, the CJI said: “We are satisfied that the ‘paper trail’ is an indispensable requirement of free and fair elections. The confidence of the voters in the EVMs can be achieved only with the introduction of the ‘paper trail’.” EVMs with VVPAT system ensure the accuracy of the voting system. With intent to have fullest transparency in the system and to restore the confidence of the voters, it is necessary to set up EVMs with VVPAT system because vote is nothing but an act of expression which has immense importance in democratic system.”

“Taking notice of the pragmatic and reasonable approach of the ECI and considering the fact that in general elections all over India the ECI has to handle one million [10 lakh] polling booths, we permit the ECI to introduce the same in gradual stages or geographical-wise in the ensuing general elections. The area, State or actual booth[s] are to be decided by the ECI and it is free to implement the same in a phased manner. We appreciate the efforts and good gesture made by the ECI in introducing the same,” the Bench said.

For implementation of VVPAT, the Bench directed the Union government to provide required financial assistance for procurement of units of VVPAT to incorporate a system of “paper trail/paper receipt” in EVMs.

The Bench recorded its appreciation of the efforts made by Dr. Swamy and the ECI, in particular its senior counsel Ashok Desai and Ms. Meenakshi.

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