Rajat Sharma


AKB30 The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed all petitions seeking 100 per cent counting of VVPAT (Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail) slips and giving voters physical access to those slips. A bench of Justice Sanjiv Khanna and Justice Dipankar Datta dismissed all doubts about hacking and manipulation of electronic voting machines (EVMs) and said the plea for return to the old system of ballot paper voting was “foible and unsound”. The bench in its judgment clearly said, “unless substantial evidence is presented against EVMs, the current system will have to persist with enhancements….repeated and persistent doubts and despair, even without supporting evidence, can have the contrarian impact of creating distrust.” The apex court however directed the Election Commission of India that symbol loading units must be sealed and stored in strong rooms for 45 days after declaration of results, in order to facilitate checks, if discrepancies are alleged after the counting is over. The apex court said, candidates who stand second and third can ask for engineers of EVM manufacturers to check microcontroller chips in 5 per cent of EVMs per assembly segment of each Lok Sabha constituency. Request must be made within seven days of results. Candidates will have to pay for it, and will get their money back , if EVM is found faulty. The apex court said, nobody should even think of returning to the ballot age, when there used to be large-scale malpractices like booth capturing and snatching of ballot boxes. “The weakness of the ballot paper system is well known and documented. In the Indian context, keeping in view the large size of the electorate of nearly 97 crore, the number of candidates…the number of polling booths…and the problems faced with ballot papers, we would be undoing the electoral reforms by directing reintroduction of ballot papers. EVMs offer significant advantages”, the bench said. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, addressing rallies in Bihar, described the Supreme Court judgement as “a tight slap” in the face of Congress-led opposition, and demanded opposition leaders must apologize for creating distrust about EVM in the minds of people. While Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said his party had nothing to do with the petitions filed by Association for Democratic Reforms and others, the party would continue to demand more and more verification of VVPAT slips with EVM votes. Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate said, if everything was hunky-dory, why didn’t the Election Commission call a meeting of all parties to discuss VVPAT despite the fact that the demand was made 11 months ago? Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav said, his party’s campaign against use of EVM would continue in future. AAP leader Saurabh Bhardwaj said, the manner in which the Centre and ECI both opposed 100 per cent verification of VVPAT slips raises doubts, and they are trying to hide something. Today’s Supreme Court judgement is a well-considered one, and it is a progressive measure. This judgement will surely uphold the core values of democracy. I have seen elections from close quarters since the last 47 years. Earlier, polling booths used to be “captured” by goons, there used to be firing and bomb throwing. When I first became a reporter, the first news on polling day used to be about how many polling booths were captured. Today, young voters may not know the true meaning of “booth capturing”. Goons used to forcibly enter polling booths, scare away the voters standing in queues, snatch ballot papers from presiding and polling officers, start stamping the symbol of the party of their choice and then force the officers to seal the ballot boxes. This type of booth capturing was not limited to elections only. It opened the path for ‘bahubalis’ (gangsters) to contest as candidates. Earlier, these gangsters used to capture booths at the point of gun for helping others, and later they themselves contested and won assembly and parliament elections at the point of gun. With the coming of EVMs, booth capturing by goons came to a halt. EVMs were brought in use when Congress was in power. But alllegations against EVMs began after Narendra Modi became Prime Minister. Leaders like Rahul Gandhi used to level EVM manipulation charges, and lawyers like Kapil Sibal and Prashant Bhushan used to raise questions in courts. It was really very sad because they knew the significance of EVMs and how these machines made our election process safe ans secure. I think those who used to raise questions about EVMs will now regain their senses after the SC judgement. The apex court considered all technical aspects of EVM and VVPAT usage minutely and delivered its verdict. Since the Supreme Court declared that EVMs were safe, secure and cannot be hacked, it is a tight slap in the face of doubters. Supreme Court judgement will strengthen the trust of voters in our electoral process. It will help to make our democracy stronger and more vibrant. This was the reason why Prime Minister Modi described it as a “Vijay Diwas” (Day of Victory) and every Indian should feel proud on this day.

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