Mumbai: Voicing its concerns over rise in apprehensions of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) being tampered with, the Bombay High Court on Friday batted for the use of Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) system. The HC has accordingly dismissed a plea moved by a Congress candidate challenging the election of a BJP leader in the Maharashtra Assembly Elections, held in October 2014.
A single-judge bench Justice Mridula Bhatkar said, “In a country like India, democracy keeps the nation alive. Elections are a vital and an integral part of any democracy. For this, a free and fair election process is essentially a lifeline. Therefore, it is the obligation of the state, especially the Welfare State to assure a transparent and non-corrupt system for the same.”
“Thus, the use of VVPAT apparatus will be a step towards provision of tamper-proof EV machines. Therefore, principally, the use of VVPAT must be implemented,” Justice Bhatkar added. Justice Bhatkar further noted the Election Commission of India has not made use of the VVPAT in any elections except in the Gujarat polls held in 2017, despite the amendments in the rules.
“The Election Commission of India has assured the Supreme Court that there will be phase-wise use of VVPAT in view of the financial burden and technical availability. Thus, under the circumstances, it cannot be said that there is non-compliance with the provisions of the rules or orders of the SC by the Returning Officer or by the ECI in the said elections,” Justice Bhatkar noted.
Though batting for VVPAT system, Justice Bhatkar also praised the EVMs saying, “EVMs were used after March 1989. This has really reduced the use of manpower, preparation, distribution and manual counting in respect of ballot papers and also the votes.”
The 64-page judgement of Justice Bhatkar comes in response to an election petition filed by Abhay Chhajed of Congress party, who lost to Madhuri Misal of the BJP, in Pune. The Congress lost the elections by more than 73,000 votes.
In his petition, Chhajed had claimed the EVMs were tampered to ensure the BJP candidate win the elections. The Congress candidate claimed during the mock polls (which are held few hours before the actual polls in presence of representatives of all the candidates) his representatives were not allowed to inspect the machines, as they had reached late. Justice Bhatkar noted the difference between the votes secured by the two candidates and accordingly dismissed the petition.