Supreme Court Seeks Clarification on Punishment for EVM Manipulation

Supreme Court examines laws on EVM manipulation punishment, emphasizes trust in electoral system, seeks VVPAT transparency for fair elections.

In a significant development, the Supreme Court has raised pertinent questions regarding the punishment for officials involved in Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) manipulation. The bench, comprising Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta, inquired whether there exists any legal provision prescribing penalties for such actions.

Expressing concerns over the absence of stringent consequences, Justice Khanna remarked, "Suppose there is some manipulation, what is the punishment prescribed? That is a serious matter. There should be a fear that if something wrong is done, then there will be punishment." The Court emphasized the necessity of instilling a sense of accountability to deter any potential malpractice.

While acknowledging the need to trust the electoral system, Justice Datta cautioned against undermining its integrity. He stated, "My home state West Bengal has a larger population than Germany. We need to repose some trust and faith in somebody. Do not try to bring down the system like this."

The Court was hearing a batch of petitions advocating for a comprehensive count of Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips in elections. Petitioners argued for tallying all VVPAT slips with EVMs instead of the current practice limited to only five EVMs.

Addressing concerns about human intervention in the electoral process, the bench highlighted the potential for biases and errors. They noted that while machines operate accurately without human interference, problems may arise from unauthorized modifications or tampering.

Rejecting a plea to revert to ballot papers, the Court recalled past experiences and emphasized the importance of embracing technological advancements cautiously. Instead, they proposed the possibility of post-election inspection of EVMs by an independent technical team to ensure transparency and prevent foul play.

Additionally, the Court inquired about the extent of CCTV camera coverage at polling booths, seeking assurances regarding monitoring and surveillance during elections.

The ongoing discussions reflect a broader debate surrounding the use of EVMs and VVPAT slips in elections. Advocates representing various petitioners stressed the importance of ensuring transparency and accountability in the electoral process.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, representing the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), advocated for either tallying all VVPAT slips with EVM votes or returning to paper ballots. He cited instances from other countries and highlighted concerns regarding the programmability of EVM chips.

Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde echoed similar sentiments, emphasizing the need for alignment between EVM and VVPAT counts to dispel any doubts among voters.

Despite practical challenges, including the time-consuming nature of tallying VVPAT slips, petitioners argued for measures to enhance the credibility and fairness of elections.