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“We Can’t Control Polls”: Supreme Court In VVPAT Case

The Supreme Court today reserved its judgement on 100% verification of the EVM and VVPAT slips. A two-judge bench of the court comprising Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta said they don’t control the elections and said the ECI cleared all doubts.

The court observed: Let us see what can be done, if any safeguards needed, we will see what is needed to strengthen the current system,‚ÄĚ

Also Watch: ‘We Cannot Control Elections’: Supreme Court Reserves Order In EVM-VVPAT Case

Earlier, the Election Commission of India for clarification on four queries regarding EVM functionality.

Before reaching the verdict, the Supreme Court bench today sought a few clarifications from the EC officer. Justice Khanna sought to know:

  • If the microcontroller was in the Control Unit or in the VVPAT
  • If the microcontroller was programmable
  • How many Symbol Loading Units were available
  • Whether the Control Unit was only sealed or VVPAT was kept separately.
  • “It was said limitation for election petition is 30 days and hence the data was stored for 45 days. But as per Representation of People Act, the limitation period is 45 days. So the period for storage may have to be correspondingly increased?,” Justice Khanna asked.

In response to concerns raised by Advocate Prashant Bhushan, representing the petitioner Association for Democratic Reforms, the court stated, “If one is already predisposed towards a particular mindset, then the court cannot intervene; our role isn’t to change individual perspectives.”

Amid concerns from the Opposition regarding the EVM voting system, the petitions aim to direct the cross-verification of every vote cast on EVMs with the paper slips generated by the VVPAT system. This cross-verification is conducted for five randomly selected EVMs in each Assembly constituency.

During previous hearings, the petitioners highlighted public trust concerns and compared European countries reverting to ballot voting systems. However, the court dismissed such comparisons, noting that the challenges faced in India are distinct. The Election Commission emphasized that the current system is robust and reliable.
As the hearing progressed, Justice Khanna stated, “We’ve gone through the FAQs. We only seek three-four clarifications. We aim to ensure accuracy without factual errors, so we seek clarification.”

Responding to a lawyer appearing for one of the petitioners for transparency regarding the source code of EVMs, Justice Khanna emphasized against disclosing it, citing potential misuse. The court sought clarifications on various technical aspects related to EVMs and VVPATs, including the location of the microcontroller and the storage period for data.

The bench requested a representative from the Election Commission to address these queries. Currently, VVPAT verification is conducted on five randomly selected EVMs in each Assembly segment of a parliamentary constituency.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court issued a notice to the ECI on a petition advocating for counting all VVPAT paper slips in elections. The petition challenged the ECI’s guidelines, arguing for simultaneous verification to expedite the process. However, the ECI maintained that complete counting of VVPAT slips was not feasible due to practical constraints.

During a hearing on April 18, the Election Commission told the Supreme Court that it was upset about comments regarding VVPAT slips. They stressed that they had worked hard for the past three years to prepare for elections. They also mentioned that before elections, all EVMs go through practice sessions, and candidates can check 5 per cent of the machines randomly. This checking process happens again on voting day.

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