The Election Commission today told the Supreme Court that it will be able to conduct the upcoming Gujarat assembly polls using EVMs with paper trail if it gets 73,500 VVPAT machines by September from the manufacturers. The poll panel, which maintained that Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) cannot be tampered with, told the apex court that around 70,000 Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPATs) units would be required for the Gujarat polls scheduled later this year. It said that around 48,000 units were expected to be delivered by Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) and Electronics Corporation of India Ltd (ECIL) by August 31 while another 25,500 such units would be delivered by September. “If the said consignment of VVPATs is delivered on time, the Election Commission expects to be able to conduct the elections to the Gujarat legislative assembly completely with the use of VVPATs,” the poll panel told the apex court in its affidavit.
The VVPAT machine is connected with EVMs and dispenses a paper proof for the voters so that they can verify their vote is cast correctly. The ECI further said that currently it was in possession of 53,500 VVPAT units. “It is pertinent to point out herein that the Election Commission of India (ECI) currently has 53,500 of VVPAT units in its possession and the number of VVPAT units required for conducting election to the Gujarat legislative assembly is 70,000 units. “The ECI expects to receive the delivery of 48,000 VVPAT units from BEL and ECIL by August 31, 2017 and another 25,500 VVPAT units in September 2017,” the poll panel said. It, however, said that though there has been a debate over alleged EVM tampering but “no political party or person” was able to demonstrate how these machines could be tampered with during the course of open EVM challenge.
The ECI’s affidavit was filed in pursuance to the apex court’s July 6 directive asking it to file a response on the possibility of using EVMs with VVPATs in the Gujarat polls.
The apex court is hearing a plea filed by a Gujarat Patidar leader seeking the use of either ballot paper or EVMs with VVPAT for the assembly elections.
Petitioner Reshma Vithabhai Patel, the convener of Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti, which was in the forefront of the Patel quota agitation, had claimed that the EVMs were not “fully reliable, foolproof, tamper-proof or hacker-proof”.
The ECI should be asked to replace EVMs with ballot paper or to ensure VVPAT for every EVM, she had demanded.
Patel’s plea had also alleged that the names of thousands of members of a “particular community” were missing from voter lists in the 2015 municipal corporation polls. It had sought the court’s direction to the ECI to prevent this in future.
She has said that the Gujarat High Court had erred in not appreciating that the Supreme Court had passed its judgement on October 18, 2013, asking to ensure polling through EVMs with paper trail, but despite that it was not implemented by the ECI and the State Election Commission.