Former finance minister and senior advocate P Chidambaram, appearing for the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), and senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Congress, appealed on April 13 that the Supreme Court refer to its own judgement of 2013 in which it favoured the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) which left a paper trail in the form of Voter-Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT).
The case is about the current EVMs being unreliable and hackable. While the Union government, led by the BJP, vehemently denies any wrongdoing, parties such as the BSP, the Aam Aadmi Party and now the Congress have all asked for a review. They want to go back to the old paper voting system, or at least use machines with VVPATs. The Election Commission (EC) has also claimed that the EVMs cannot be hacked and has thrown an open challenge to anybody who can prove otherwise in a hackthaon that it wishes to organise.
Chidambaram, on April 13, explained that without the paper trail “I won’t be able to verify… Here we just press the button, we don’t know what the machine does process and what it does not. It is necessary to replace the EVMs with the ballot paper system. There is a report that shows that the software as well as the hardware are vulnerable and can be hacked easily.”
Justice Chelameswar said: “In 1982-83, it was challenged and it was upheld by this court. We have to see what was the reasoning in that.”
Sibal commented that nowhere in the world other than South America, are EVMs used. To that Justice Chelameswar said: “Mr Sibal, your party only introduced EVMs. How can you say no other country uses it? EVMs are remedy to booth capturing and other ills.”
Sibal replied that technology is not invincible and said that “even the Pentagon can be hacked,” but Justice Chelameswar said: “We will decide the case on merits we don’t care if it is in any other part of world.”
It may be recalled that in the earlier judgement, the Supreme Court had directed the EC to install VVPAT machines, but till date sufficient funds have not been released by Union government to purchase the machines. The requirement is Rs 3,000 crore.
On April 13, the apex court issued notice to the respondents—EC and the government—and the case will be heard next on May 8.
Meanwhile, a prayer asking for the cancellation of the recent UP elections was withdrawn.
—By India Legal Bureau