Impossible to tamper with EVMs at any stage, EC tells SC

Bench chides petitioners, including Association for Democratic Reforms, that “it was not good to be over-suspicious about everything”

April 18, 2024 04:43 pm | Updated April 24, 2024 12:42 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Electoral employees assemble EVM and VVPAT machines in Bhopal.

Electoral employees assemble EVM and VVPAT machines in Bhopal. | Photo Credit: A.M. Faruqui

The Election Commission of India (EC) assured that it is impossible to tamper with electronic voting machines (EVMs) “at any stage” even as the Supreme Court reserved its judgment on Thursday on pleas that 97 crore registered voters in the country have a right to a more transparent electoral system, with or without EVMs.

Also Read: EVM-VVPAT verification case LIVE updates

The assurance from the top poll body that EVMs were “perfect” came on the eve of the general elections to the Lok Sabha.

A Bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta chided petitioners, including Association for Democratic Reforms, that “it was not good to be over-suspicious about everything”.

The two days of marathon hearing saw ideas ranging from returning to paper ballots to bar codes for individual candidates to having more translucent peepholes on Voter Verifiable Paper Audit trail (VVPATs) swirl through in the courtroom. Advocate Prashant Bhushan and senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, appearing for petitioners, highlighted the fundamental right of the voter to confirm that his vote has been cast right.

The court was hearing petitions seeking cross-verification of 100% EVM votes with VVPAT paper slips. Currently, cross-verification of EVM-VVPAT happens only in five randomly selected polling booths in a constituency.

The EC said there have been 41,629 instances of random verification till date. Over four crore VVPAT paper slips were matched till date. There was not a single instance of mismatch.

‘Cumbersome process’

The EC said it would take a whole hour to manually count the VVPAT slips of a single polling station. “On an average, 1,000 VVPAT slips are required to be counted per polling station… The small size and special nature of the paper makes the slips sticky. Manual counting of VVPAT slips is cumbersome at every step. The process cannot be expedited or hurried,” it said.

The EC also gave a human perspective of why VVPAT slips’ counting cannot be hurried up.

“The overall environment in a counting centre is charged up and the counting personnel are under tremendous mental pressure. This is also a factor that affects the speed of counting of VVPAT slips,” it said. There were also instances of recounting and reverification of VVPAT slips till candidate-wise tallying is done. This would again consume time, its affidavit noted.

The EC assured that there cannot be any “mismatch” between votes polled and votes counted.

“Votes are registered in the control unit only after receiving the confirmation from VVPAT about the print and fall of the VVPAT paper slips… There is a ‘fall sensor’ in the VVPAT. In case the slip is not cut or does not fall into the ballot box, the VVPAT shows ‘fall error’ and no vote is recorded in the control unit,” the poll body explained.

The EC said that both electors and machines have increased from 2019 to 2024. Polling stations have gone up from 10.35 lakh in 2019 to 10.48 lakh in 2024.

Similarly, the votes polled have increased from about 61.4 crore in 2019 to 97 crore registered voters in 2024. The EC explained that EVMs are constituted of ballot units, control units and VVPATs. All three units are sealed in the presence of candidates or their agents and stored in strong rooms after elections for a period of 45 days, the time for filing election petitions.

The EC said there were 23.3 lakh ballot units in 2019 and their number is 21.6 lakh in 2024. The number of control units were 16.35 lakh in 2019 and 16.8 lakh this year. The VVPATs have increased marginally from 17.4 lakh in 2019 to 17.7 lakh in 2024.

Explained | A brief history of EVMs in India

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