Upgraded EVM system please, Congress urges Supreme Court

Party leaders want the apex court to direct the Election Commission to implement a 2013 order and expert committee report

Electronic voting machines in a strongroom (photo: National Herald archives)
Electronic voting machines in a strongroom (photo: National Herald archives)

Nadeem Inamdar

With the 2024 parliamentary polls around the corner, Congress leaders have moved the Supreme Court to call for the upgradation of the electronic voting machines (EVM) to ensure fair, transparent elections.

Pune-based Congress leaders Abhay Chhajed and Ramesh Iyer filed a writ petition urging that the apex court direct the Election Commission of India to implement the Supreme Court's own 2013 order and an expert committee report recommending the use of upgraded EVMs.

The PIL has been listed before a bench comprising Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud, Justice J.B. Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Mishra.

Consequent to the petition, the Supreme Court has issued a notice to the ECI and the Union government, asking for their submissions before 7 February on the petition demanding 'the time and date of voting should be printed on the VVPAT slip of the EVM machine'.

The petition was filed before the court by lawyers Abhay Anil Anturkar, Surbhi Kapoor and Asim Sarode.

The petition asks the Supreme Court to '[i]ssue a writ of mandamus, or a writ in the nature of mandamus, or any other appropriate writ, order and/or direction directing the ECI to introduce design changes in EVMs before the 2024 general elections' and to 'direct both ECI and the central government to work in coordination to conduct the 2024 General Elections in a more free and fair manner and take suitable decisions for the same in the interest of the voter’s rights and introduce [a] specific voter’s electoral rights charter'.

The petitioners demanded that the time and date of each vote should be printed on the VVPAT slips used in the elections.

In the 2019 elections, the time and date were not printed on the slips. In the recently held Kasba Vidhan Sabha by-election, Congress candidate and sitting MLA Ravindra Dhangekar sent a letter to the ECI demanding verification of time, date and stamp on VVPAT slips during the counting for 215 Assembly seats. However, the ECI was yet to respond in this matter.

The petitioners have brought to the notice of the Supreme Court that although the expert committee of the Election Commission recommended that slips should be printed with the date and time of polling, it has not been implemented universally.

In the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, the government and the Election Commission should coordinate and implement the recommendations of the expert committee, the petition demands.

The petition further highlights that it is the voter's right to get a slip mentioning the date and time of voting. The functioning of EVM machines and VVPAT slips should be reliable and should be improved to make elections transparent, the petitioners held.

The petitioners further stated that the paper trail system is supposed to supplement the procedure of recording a vote in the EVM. A printout should inform the voter that their vote has been rightly registered and the same should be deposited in a box, said the petitioners, which can only be used by the ECI in case of a dispute over election results.

The petitioners added that such a system would bring more accuracy to the polling system. Also, such a procedure would allow a recount to be easily done, ensuring more transparency.

The writ petition also raises similar contentions as those formerly raised by Dr Subramaniam Swamy. According to the petitioner, in the present system of voting through EVMs, there is no facility by which a voter can verify and confirm his/her vote. At present, a voter presses a button but cannot ascertain the actual voting has been registered accurately—whether the vote has been recorded or not, and whether it has been counted in favour of the person chosen by the voter.

The petitioners point out that the upgradation of EVMs as suggested by the ‘Report of the Expert Committee for the Technical Evaluation of the Upgraded Electronic Voting Machine’ is essential, as unbiased and tamperproof functioning of the control unit is critical to conducting fair elections.

Iyer said, “In the expert committee report, it is mentioned that EVM and VVPAT machines should be upgraded... For a free, fair and transparent election, a voter has the right to verify whether the voting which he/she has done is correct(ly registered)."

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