New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday said it will hear on April 13 the pleas challenging the use of EVMs in elections without equipping the machines with voter verified paper audit trail (VVPAT).
A bench headed by Chief Justice J. S. Khehar refused to give sepearate hearing to a plea filed by former Samajwadi Party (SP) lawmaker Ataur Rehman who sought elections with EVMs equipped with VVPAT. "Pleas on similar issues are coming up for hearing on April 13. You can raise your contention at the time. "We will give you the opportunity to raise your contention but we will not tag the matter and accord separate hearing," the bench also comprising Justices D. Y. Chandrachud and S. K. Kaul said.
Senior advocate P. Chidambaram, appearing for Rehman, said that there is a judgement of the apex court which had given a specific direction to the Election Commission that the "paper trail" is an indispensable requirement of free and fair elections but it is yet to be implemented.
The bench, however, asked Chidambaram to raise the issue along with the petitions coming up on April 13. On April 13, a similar plea of the Bahujan Samajwadi Party challenging the use of EVMs will be coming up for hearing. Rehman has sought directions to the commission to stop the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) without VVPAT forthwith and, instead use ballot paper in any forthcoming election until EVMs are equipped with the provision of VVPAT. He has sought a direction that the commission under the supervision of the apex court should set up a high-level inquiry to check EVMs in a random manner in any constituency to find out whether they have been hacked or manipulated in a bid to restore the faith of the people in sanctity of the polls.
"The petitioner has challenged the voting through EVMs without VVPAT in Assembly elections, parliamentary polls as well as local bodies elections and has also sought remedies which cannot be obtained by means of representation. "Hence, no representation before the Election Commission or any authority has been moved by the petitioner," his plea said.
It said, "If the computers in the Prime Minister's Office and the personal computer of no less than the former national security adviser, M. K. Narayanan had been hacked, is it not ludicrous to assume that EVMs locked up in storerooms in districts and remote rural locations will remain secure and not fall prey to the miscreants?" He said that "unlike the traditional ballot system where election officials were only the "insiders", EVM regime has spawned a long chain of insiders and there is every possibility that some of these "insiders" are involved in "murky activities in fixing elections".
After the Assembly elections earlier this year in five states -- Uttar Pradesh, Uttrakhand, Goa, Punjab and Manipur, many political parties and candidates have raised their voice against the use of EVMs. EVMs are being used in general and state elections to implement electronic voting in parts from 1999 elections and in total since 2004 elections. An EVM can record a maximum of 3,840 votes and can cater to a maximum of 64 candidates. There is provision for 16 candidates in a single balloting unit and up to a maximum of 4 units can be connected in parallel.