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Indian Polity, the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and the General Lok Sabha Elections of 2019

twitter-logo PTI        Last Updated: April 8, 2019  | 17:33 IST

(Eds: Disclaimer: The following press release comes to you under an arrangement with Newsvoir. PTI takes no editorial responsibility for the same.) New Delhi, Delhi, India(NewsVoir) The Election Commission developed India’s own Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in partnership with two Government-owned Companies i.e. the Electronics Corporation of India (ECIL) and Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) in the year 1989 which were used for the first time in the Goa State Assembly elections of 1999. For the first time the paper ballot system was replaced by the electronic voting mechanism and the same received a great applause and marked the transition to digitalization in the election system of the country. Highlighting the relevance of the working module of the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), Advocate Mr. Anant Sharma & Advocate Mr. Tushar Mudgil remarked, that the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and its working module is very simple as it consists of two parts i.e. the Control Unit and BallotUnit. The Control Unit is kept in the polling station with the Presiding Officer and is placed inside the voting compartment as the votes are counted through it whereas the Balloting Units are kept in the voting compartment for electors to cast their votes. The Balloting Unit presents the voter with blue buttons horizontally labeled with corresponding party symbol and candidate names. The Control Unit, on the other hand, provides the Officer-In-Charge with a "Ballot" marked button to proceed to the next voter, instead of issuing a ballot paper to them. The digitalization has marked the transition from the primitive paper ballot systems and long wait for results to a more reliable, safe and secure medium for conducting elections. But the technology and transition have its own challenges and critics, which subsists for the issue in hand as there are certain strata of people and political parties who challenge the authenticity of these EVMs and there flows an ongoing debate on the same. Answering to the questions and enumerating the legal sanctity behind the usage of the EVMs, Mr. Anant Sharma said, though the EVM manufacturers and election officials have attempted to keep the design of the EVMs secret, this presents only a minor obstacle for would-be attackers. Some reports formed an opinion that the EVMs used in India are not tamper-proof and are susceptible to a range of attacks. Thus, the legal sanctity of EVM is always questioned. But, the Indian Parliament amended the Representation of the People Act 1951 and has introduced Section 61A, which lays down the provisions for the use of EVMs by Election Commission of India to conduct general and state elections in India. Further, Section 100 of the Act makes the tampering of the EVMs to be a corrupt practice and in the event of happening of the same then the election should be held void. Despite all such amendments, insertions and laws in force, disturbing claims are brought forward after almost every election. The question challenging the authenticity of the EVMs has already came before the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the leading case of Dr. Subramanian Swamy vs Election Commission of India (SLP (Civil) No.13735 of 2012) in which the petitioner pleaded that, in the present system of voting, there is no such facility by which a voter can verify and confirm his/her own vote. The Court after hearing both the parties stated that Election Commission of India has taken due diligence to avoid tampering and “paper trail” is an indispensable requirement of free and fair elections and thereof dismissed the case. Pursuant thereto, the Election Commission in the year 2013 incorporated Viable Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trial Systems (VVPAT) as a part of the presently used EVMs. The VVPAT machines are used during the election process to verify that the vote polled by a voter goes to the correct candidate, thus making the election even more transparent. The VVPAT system further helps the voter by executing a paper slip which contains the poll symbol and party name of the candidate as soon as the voter presses the button on EVM. In the wake of numerous allegations related to the tampering, the Election Commission of India decided to replace over 9 lakh EVMs with advanced M3 Machines ahead of the 2019 general Lok Sabha elections. These machines will become redundantin case of any attempt of tampering. Thus, in order to restore the confidence of voters and have full transparency during the entire process of election, it is necessary to incorporate VVPAT with EVMs respectively. On March 25, 2019, the Hon’ble Supreme Court said, "It was in favor of increasing random physical verification of Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) in the upcoming general Lok Sabha elections, however, doing so it shall take more number of days for the results to be declared." While reading the dailies and watching the talk shows we see many allegations and questions on the authenticity and validity of the EVMs, which are being raised by several activists and politicians. Having said that, the Election Commission of India has time and again demonstrated the EVMs and has issued various clarifications on their efficiency and usage and have also invited people who level allegations and raise questions to come forward and prove their stance, however, up-till now not even a single person has been able to prove anything beyond reasonable doubt. The political turmoil created by certain activists and politicians have left the voters on alurch. On one hand we talk about digitalization and technology whereas on the other hand we level allegations and raise questions on them, without any concrete and decisive evidences and proofswhile leaving the Indian voters perplexed and the International community amazed. The bare denial and the state of confusion has opened its arms and the general Lok Sabha elections of 2019 is looking at us with a smile on its face. For further information one can write on to support@mylawyersadvice.com. Image: Advocate Mr. Anant Sharma PWR PWR

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