The assembly elections in Gujarat, scheduled for December this year could be held using Electronic Voting Machines attached to Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail machines if the machines are delivered on time, the Election Commission told the Supreme Court today.
The EC told the requirement was at least 70,000 EVMs with VVPATs.
“It is pertinent to point out that the Election Commission currently has 53,000 VVPAT units in its possession and the number of VVPAT units required for conducting elections to the Gujarat Assembly is 70,000 units. The election commission expects to receive the delivery of 48,000 VVPATs units from BEL and ECIL by Agust 31, 2017 and another 25,000 by September. If the said consignment is delivered in time, the EC expects to be able to conduct the elections to the assembly with the use of VVPATs. Further funds will also be required for its storage, maintenance and security”, said an affidavit filed in the court by the commission
VVPAT machines issue slips that show if a voter's choice has been correctly recorded in an EVM. In case the results of an election is questioned, as happened after the assembly elections in five states held earlier this year, the VVPAT slips can be used to double check on the announced results.
The bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar was hearing a petition by Reshma Vithalbhai Patel and argued by senior advocate Kapil Sibal and lawyer M Nizam Pasha to direct the EC to use EVMs with VVPAT facility in the Gujarat Assembly elections to boost voters' confidence in the machines.
On July 9, the court had asked EC to try using electronic voting machines (EVMs) with paper trails “...It appears, you do not want to use EVMs with VVPAT system in Gujarat elections. Just do it, if you can,”, the bench had said.
Amid a debate after the recent round of assembly elections over suspected vulnerability of EVMs to tampering, several political parties, including the Congress, have demanded mandatory use of printed paper slips – called the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) – in all elections. The EC maintains that the EVMs cannot be manipulated.
Expressing satisfaction at the EC affidavit, the bench wanted to close the case, but Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party, which was one of the petitioners, wanted an adjournment.Though the court adjourned the case till tomorrow, CJI Khehar told the party, "Whatever you wanted, the Election Commission is providing. You can't waste the time of the court and it has become a habit now," .