Gujarat polls: VVPAT-enabled EVMs ensure integrity, Congress need not raise doubts over votes being manipulated

Any stakeholder in the Gujarat election who has doubts over the inviolability of the Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT)-enabled Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) used, can approach the returning officers for a verification of the paper trails. The manual on EVM and VVPAT issued by the Election Commission (EC) lays down a simple and straightforward procedure for counting the paper trails to allay doubts.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Allegation of EVMs being rigged have caused much debate in public sphere during Gujarat election, as many parties, including the pressure groups actively involved in the election campaign, have raised the issue of possible EVM manipulation in the media.

On Friday, the Congress approached the Supreme Court asking the “to count and cross verify at least 25 percent of the VVPAT paper trail (votes) with the EVM votes" cast in the Gujarat election, but the apex court rejected the plea. The Supreme Court did not find any reason to maintain the case and a three-judge bench of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud told senior advocate Abhishek Singhvi who appeared for the Congress, that it could not act on mere apprehensions unless something concrete substantiated the same.

There was another reason why the Supreme Court disagreed to maintain the case. The VVPAT manual lays down clear procedures to verify paper trail in case of any doubts. As per this manual, the party can approach the Returning Officer and get the paper trails counted. Stating that this procedure was mentioned in the manual, Justice Chandrachud told Singhvi that election rules already empowered a candidate to ask the Returning Officer to count the paper slips.

The manual clearly defines the procedure of counting the paper trail in section 21.13. As per the manual, after the entries made in the result sheet of election are announced, any candidate, or in his absence, his election agent or any of his counting agents may apply in writing to the Returning Officer to count the printed paper slips of VVPAT unit with respect to any polling station or all polling stations. On such an application being made, the Returning Officer shall pass a speaking order on whether the counting of paper slips shall be done or not.

Significantly, the manual further says that if there is discrepancy between the count of votes displayed on the control unit and the count of printed-paper slips in respect of any polling station, the result sheet will be amended as per the printed paper slips count. Which makes it clear that to allay any doubts regarding manipulation of VVPAT-enabled EVMs, the Congress didn't need to approach the Supreme Court or make an issue out of it in the media. The manual and procedures laid out take care of any such concerns that the Congress may have.

VVPAT-enabled EVMs were used in Gujarat Assembly polls as the demands for its use have been rising along with allegations of EVM tampering. The allegations gained momentum after the BJP won a massive victory in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections earlier this year.

Introducing these gadgets, the EC said, “The machines give a voter for chance to verify their vote. The machine is placed in a glass case in a way that only the voter can see it. The slip is displayed to the voter for seven seconds. After that, the VVPAT machine cuts it and drops in into the storage box with a beep. The machines can be accessed, though, by the polling officials and not by the voter.”

VVPAT machines simultaneously enable voters to be sure of which candidate gets their vote and empowers the EC to recount votes for booths where allegations are made that EVMs are compromised. But allegations of EVM manipulations persist. On Sunday, Hardik Patel, a Gujarat Patidar leader, raised the spectre of EVM tampering, saying: "EVMs decide our country's future... if ATMs can be hacked, why can't EVMs?”

BJP president Amit Shah on Monday told the media that decision related to use or not use EVMs rests with the EC and not the BJP.

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Updated Date: Dec 18, 2017 21:30 PM

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