Supreme Court Upheld Technology, Not Democracy

Supreme Court Upheld Technology, Not Democracy

The impact of these directions on the ongoing electoral process are not immediately known. But the judgment, by trashing democracy and upholding technology certainly cannot ensure the righteousness and integrity of India’s elections!

M G DevasahayamUpdated: Saturday, April 27, 2024, 11:54 AM IST
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Electronic Voting Machine | File Photo

The plea in the writ petition and the intervention application on Electronic Voting Machine / Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (EVM/VVPAT) in the Supreme Court was for upholding the Democracy Principles that the voting process should have end-to-end verifiability with the voter having the knowledge that her vote was cast as intended, recorded as cast, and counted as recorded. This is possible in the ballot-paper system but not possible with an EVM, which is a black box.

With this in view, the Supreme Court was requested to issue a writ of mandamus or any other appropriate writ, order, or direction to the ECI:

* To cross-verify the count in EVMs with votes that have been verifiably ‘recorded as cast by the voters themselves i.e. the VVPATs;

* To ensure that the voters can verify through VVPATs that their vote has been 'counted as recorded;'

*To uphold the fundamental right of the voters to verify through VVPATs that their vote has been 'recorded as cast and counted' as recorded’;

*Direct that the printout of the VVPAT slips must be handed over to the voter and they must be able to deposit them in the VVPAT ballot box, which must then be cross-verified by the electronic count in the EVMs;

Court had sufficient time to go into the matter

The original petition was filed in February/March 2023 and the court had sufficient time to go into the matter in detail and pronounce judgment well before the commencement of the polling process for General Election 2024. Instead, the case was taken up after the commencement of the electoral process and the judgment was handed out on April 26, 2024, the day when 191 constituencies had completed the polling and 35 per cent of the electorate had cast their votes.

Even then the court summarily dismissed the plea of Democracy Principles and upheld the supremacy and 'infallibility' of technology: In our considered opinion, the EVMs are simple, secure and userfriendly. The voters, candidates and their representatives, and the officials of the ECI are aware of the nitty-gritty of the EVM system.

They also check and ensure righteousness and integrity. Moreover, the incorporation of the VVPAT system fortifies the principle of vote verifiability, thereby enhancing the overall accountability of the electoral process.

The Court also issued two directions:

(a) On completion of the symbol loading process in the VVPATs undertaken on or after May 1, 2024, the symbol loading units shall be sealed and secured in a container. The candidates or their representatives shall sign the seal. The sealed containers, containing the symbol loading units, shall be kept in the strongroom along with the EVMs for a period of at least 45 days post the declaration of results. They shall be opened, examined and dealt with as in the case of EVMs.

(b) The burnt memory/ microcontroller in 5 per cent of the EVMs per assembly segment of a parliamentary constituency shall be checked and verified by the team of engineers from the manufacturers of the EVMs, post the announcement of the results, for any tampering or modification, on a written request made by candidates who are at SI. No. 2 or Sl. No. 3, behind the highest polled candidate.

The impact of these directions on the ongoing electoral process are not immediately known. But the judgment, by trashing democracy and upholding technology certainly cannot ensure the righteousness and integrity of India's elections!

(The writer is a former Army and IAS Officer and is the Coordinator of the Citizens Commission on Elections)

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