The Election Commission of India (EC) has assured the Supreme Court that Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) can neither be hacked nor tampered with. In an affidavit spanning over 450 pages, the EC said EVMs are “totally stand-alone machines having one-time programmable chips”.
The EC has put in place “stringent technical and administrative safeguards for EVMs so that the machines cannot be tampered or manipulated to any extent whatsoever,” the affidavit stated.
The assurance comes ahead of crucial Assembly elections this year and general election in 2024.
The poll body also ruled out the need to “re-design Voter-verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT)“.
“The existing VVPAT enables electors to check whether their votes have gone to the candidate of their choice… Further there is a provision for mandatory verification of printed VVPAT slips from five randomly selected polling stations of each Assembly constituency/segment, which is the audit of the electronic vote before the results,” the EC said.
The EC said counting of 100% VVPAT slips would pose a “great difficulty”. For one, the chemically-coated slips are a “little sticky” and it would take an hour to count the slips from one VVPAT alone. Since the introduction of VVPATs, 118 crore voters have cast their votes with full satisfaction. Only 25 complaints were received, and all were found false, the Commission said.
The poll body also stated the demand for counting the slips individually was essentially suggesting a return to the paper ballot system. It said manual counting of paper slips would be prone to human error, mischief, drudgery, and mischievous false narratives on social media.
“Moreover, there is no fundamental right of the voter to verify through VVPATs that their votes were ‘recorded as cast’ and ‘counted as recorded’,” the EC affidavit contended.
The EC was responding to a petition filed by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), which sought a direction to cross-verify the vote count in EVMs with votes “recorded as cast” in the VVPAT.
Appearing for the ADR before the top court, advocate Prashant Bhushan pointed out that Assembly elections for some States are due in November. He, therefore, urged the Court to hear the matter after two weeks.
The Bench led by Justice Sanjiv Khanna, however, declined to urgently hear the matter and listed the case for consideration in November.