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Supreme Court asks Centre, EC to respond to petitions on EVM tampering

The top court also agreed to hear pleas asking for a paper trail on all EVMs

india Updated: Apr 13, 2017 20:27 IST
Bhadra Sinha
Bhadra Sinha
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Supreme Court,Election Commission,EVMs
The Supreme Court agrees to hear pleas asking for a paper trail on all EVMs. (HT Photo )

The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the central government and the Election Commission to respond to petitions that allege electronic voting machines (EVMs) can be easily hacked, amid controversy over the devices that transformed polling in India.

The top court also agreed to hear pleas asking for a paper trail on all EVMs.

The court was hearing petitions filed by the Bahujan Samaj Party and a Samajwadi Party MLA, Ataur Rehman.

The BSP has alleged that large-scale tampering of EVMs aided the BJP in its sweeping victory in Uttar Pradesh last month.

“The views of technicians working in this field are important and not of what political parties say,” a bench headed by Justice J Chelameswar told the senior counsel appearing before him.

Congress leader P Chidambaram argued for both the BSP and Rehman. But, the bench also held a view that EVMs were a remedy to several ills that plagued the voting system before it was introduced.

He said a 2013 SC verdict made it mandatory for the Election Commission to install the voter-verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT).

Despite the poll panel writing to the government ten times since June last, including the Chief Election Commissioner sending a letter to the Prime Minister, the government had failed to release funds for the paper trail machines.

“They need Rs 3,000 crore for having this system,” he told the court.

Paper trail was indispensable requirement to restore the confidence of a voter who gets assured that he pressed the button on the EVM for the right candidate and party, Chidambaram argued.

On court’s objection to the BSP’s prayer that the forthcoming elections should be deferred in the wake of no paper trail machines, Chidambaram withdrew the plea. “We would not like to get drawn in political controversies,” the bench told the senior counsel.

The BSP and Rahman got support from the Congress and the Trinamool Congress who informed the bench that they wanted to be a party in the case, which the court allowed.

The next hearing in the case was fixed for May 8.

The row over EVMs was back in the headlines after allegations in Madhya Pradesh’s Ater – where the BJP is fighting the Congress in an assembly by-election — that a device registered votes only for the saffron party during a media demonstration.

The government and the EC has dismissed the charges. The poll panel has even challenged anyone to hack a device, after Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said he needed 72 hours to prove EVMs could be tampered with.

On behalf of the Congress Kapil Sibal said that no country use EVMs. “But, this system was introduced when your party was in power,” the bench replied, saying it would not decide the issue on the basis of what which country was following.

“We would purely go on the basis of law and technical data,” the court said to which Sibal replied: “Experience has shown to us that technology can be hacked.”

First Published: Apr 13, 2017 20:27 IST