EVMs were used first time in Kerala in 50 booths in 1982

Defeated candidate wins in re-poll using conventional ballot papers.

March 06, 2021 06:23 pm | Updated 06:26 pm IST - Kochi

File photograph used for representational purposes only

File photograph used for representational purposes only

The use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) in some booths of the Paravur Assembly constituency in Ernakulam is etched in the electoral history as they were introduced in the constituency in the 1982 polling, a first in the country.

The EVMs were introduced in 50 polling stations in the election in which the late Congress leader A.C. Jose and the late Communist Party of India leader N. Sivan Pillai were locked in a tight contest.

The Congress candidate was defeated by a razor-thin margin of 123 by Pillai. Jose challenged the election of his rival in the Kerala High Court, arguing that the Representation of the People Act, 1951 and the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961 did not empower the Election Commission to use EVMs. The High Court refused his plea. But on an appeal by Jose, the Supreme Court in 1984 ordered a re-poll in the 50 polling stations using conventional ballot papers. Jose won the seat in the repoll.

According to the Supreme Court, the Election Commission should have conducted the poll by ballot papers as prescribed by the then existing provisions of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 and the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961. It held that the Commission could not ‘‘innovate a new method”.

In 1992, Parliament inserted Section 61A in the Act and rules validating the use of the EVM and paving way for their use in elections. The EC started using EVMs widely since 1998.

The new generation of EVMs has Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT), which prints a small slip of paper that carries the name, symbol and the serial number of the candidate.

Supreme Court lawyer Kaleeswaram Raj says the plea for abolishing EVMs has been repeatedly rejected by the Supreme Court. The Court has issued directives for using VVPAT to ensure accuracy and fairness in the EVM practice in 2013.

“The problem, however, is that only a minuscule number of votes are now subjected to VVPAT scrutiny across the country and the Election Commission has to increase the sample test reasonably and substantially to achieve the very objective of VVPAT,” he says.

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