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Friday, October 11, 2013

ELECTIONS = Introduction of EVMs with VVPAT system in Elections for transparency - DR. SUBRAMANIAN SWAMY Vs. ELECTION COMMISSION OF INDIA published in judis.nic.in/supremecourt/filename=40874

Introduction of EVMs with VVPAT  system  ensure
the accuracy  of  the  voting  system.  Necessary directions for implementation and  for necessary amendments in R.P. Act =

whereby the High Court  disposed  of  the
petition by  disallowing  the  prayer  made  by  the  appellant  herein  for
issuance of a writ of mandamus directing the Election  Commission  of  India
(ECI)-Respondent herein  to  incorporate  a  system  of  “paper  trail/paper
receipt” in the Electronic Voting Machines  (EVMs)  as  a  convincing  proof
that the EVM has rightly registered the vote cast by a voter in favour of  a
particular candidate. =

From the materials placed by both the sides,  we  are  satisfied  that
the  “paper  trail”  is  an  indispensable  requirement  of  free  and  fair
elections.  The confidence of the voters in the EVMs can  be  achieved  only
with the introduction of the “paper trail”.  EVMs with VVPAT  system  ensure
the accuracy  of  the  voting  system.   With  an  intent  to  have  fullest
transparency in the system and to restore the confidence of the  voters,  it
is necessary to set up EVMs with VVPAT system because vote  is  nothing  but
an act of expression which has immense importance in democratic system.
30)   In the light  of  the  above  discussion  and  taking  notice  of  the
pragmatic and reasonable approach of the ECI and considering the  fact  that
in general elections all over India, the ECI has to handle one million  (ten
lakhs) polling booths, we permit the ECI to introduce the  same  in  gradual
stages or geographical-wise in the ensuing  general  elections.   The  area,
State or actual booth(s) are to be decided by the ECI and the  ECI  is  free
to implement the same in a phased manner.  We  appreciate  the  efforts  and
good gesture made by the ECI in introducing the same.
31)   For implementation of such a system (VVPAT) in a  phased  manner,  the
Government of India is directed to  provide  required  financial  assistance
for procurement of units of VVPAT.
32)   Before parting with the case,  we  record  our  appreciation  for  the
efforts made by Dr. Subramanian Swamy as well as the ECI, in particular  Mr.
Ashok Desai and Ms. Meenakshi Arora, learned senior counsel for the ECI.
33)   With the above directions,  the  appeal  and  the  writ  petition  are
disposed of.   No  separate  order  is  required  in  the  applications  for
intervention.  Both sides are permitted to approach this Court  for  further
direction(s), if need arises.

                                                                  REPORTABLE


                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                         CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

                                      1


                                      2


                       3 CIVIL APPEAL NO.9093 OF 2013


              4 (Arising out of SLP (Civil) No. 13735 of 2012)




Dr. Subramanian Swamy                   .... Appellant(s)

            Versus

Election Commission of India                 .... Respondent(s)

                                    WITH

                      WRIT PETITION (C) NO. 406 OF 2012



                               J U D G M E N T


P. Sathasivam, CJI.
1)    Leave granted.
Civil Appeal @ SLP (C) No. 13735 of 2012
2)     This  appeal  is  directed  against  the  judgment  and  order  dated
17.01.2012 passed by the Division Bench of the High Court of  Delhi  at  New
Delhi in W.P.(C) No. 11879 of 2009 whereby the High Court  disposed  of  the
petition by  disallowing  the  prayer  made  by  the  appellant  herein  for
issuance of a writ of mandamus directing the Election  Commission  of  India
(ECI)-Respondent herein  to  incorporate  a  system  of  “paper  trail/paper
receipt” in the Electronic Voting Machines  (EVMs)  as  a  convincing  proof
that the EVM has rightly registered the vote cast by a voter in favour of  a
particular candidate.
3)    Being aggrieved of the above, the present appeal  has  been  filed  by
way of special leave.
Writ Petition (Civil) No. 406 of 2012
4)    One Rajendra Satyanarayan Gilda has filed this  Writ  Petition,  under
Article 32 of the Constitution of India, praying for issuance of a  writ  of
mandamus/direction(s) directing the  Union  of  India,  the  Chief  Election
Commissioner and the Technical Experts Committee-Respondent Nos. 1-3  herein
respectively to effect the necessary modifications in  the  EVMs  so  as  to
allow the voters  to  verify  their  respective  votes  and  to  attach  the
printers to the EVMs with a facility to print  the  running  record  of  the
votes for the purpose of verification  by  the  voters  in  the  process  of
voting.  He also prayed for a direction to frame guidelines  and  to  effect
necessary amendments in the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961.
5)    In view of the pendency of the appeal filed by Dr. Subramanian  Swamy,
this Court issued notice in the writ  petition  and  tagged  with  the  said
appeal.
6)    Heard Dr. Subramanian Swamy, appellant-in-person in  the  appeal,  Dr.
R.R. Deshpande, learned counsel for the writ  petitioner,  Mr.  Ashok  Desai
and Ms. Meenakshi Arora, learned senior counsel for the ECI.
Contentions:
7)    Dr. Subramanian Swamy, the  appellant  herein  contended  before  this
Court that the present system of EVMs, as utilized in the last  few  general
elections in India, does not meet all the requirements of the  international
standards and though the ECI maintains that  the  EVMs  cannot  be  tampered
with, but the fact is that EVMs, like all electronic  equipments,  are  open
to hacking.
8)    The appellant has further highlighted that the instant  matter  arises
out of the refusal of the ECI to incorporate a certain obvious safeguard  in
the EVMs called “paper backup”, “paper receipt” or “paper trail”,  presently
in use and mandated in some countries  like  USA,  which  would  easily  and
cheaply meet the requirement of proof that the EVM  has  rightly  registered
the vote cast by a voter.
The appellant has further  highlighted  that  the
“paper trail” system is to supplement the procedure of  voting  as  in  this
procedure, after recording a vote in the EVM, a  print  out  will  come  out
which will appraise the voter that his vote has been rightly registered  and
the same will be deposited in a box which can only be used  by  the  ECI  in
case of election dispute.
9)    It is the categorical stand of  the  appellant  that  the  above  said
system will bring more accuracy in the present system and  if  a  particular
election is  challenged  on  the  ground  that  some  particular  identified
voter’s voter or the votes of a group of voters  have  been  suppressed/have
not been correctly assigned by the EVMs, the accepted current  procedure  is
for a re-run of the same  EVMs  for  a  re-count,  however,  under  the  new
procedure, a re-count will be of the receipts in the ballot  box  containing
the printouts the EVMs  had  issued  to  the  voter  thereby  ensuring  more
transparency in the process.
10)   The writ petitioner has also raised similar contentions  as  those  of
Dr. Swamy.  According to the petitioner, in the  present  system  of  voting
through EVMs, there is no such facility by which  a  voter  can  verify  and
confirm his own voting.  At present, a  voter  presses  a  button  only  but
cannot ascertain the actual voting.  He is not  sure
 whether  his  vote  is
recorded or not, if recorded, whether  it  is  recorded  in  favour  of  the
person to whom it was intended or not.  Whether it is valid or  invalid  and
whether it is counted or not.   It  is  submitted  by  the  petitioner  that
unless and until answers to these  questions  are  personally  seen  by  the
voter, it cannot be said that voting is made  by  him  because  “pressing  a
button of choice and getting flashed the red-light” is not actual voting  in
real  sense  unless  the  voter  knows  well  that  what  has  happened   in
consequence of pressing a button of his choice from the EVMs.
Stand of the Election Commission of India:
11)   Mr. Ashok Desai, learned senior counsel for  the  ECI  submitted  that
the apprehension that EVMs could be tampered with is baseless.  It was  also
informed to this Court that the ECI has been exploring  the  possibility  of
incorporating a viable Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) system  as
a part of  the  presently  used  EVMs  to  make  the  election  system  more
transparent.  Further, it was brought to our notice that the  ECI  conducted
field trials for VVPAT system  earlier  also  but  the  same  had  not  been
successful and were discontinued.  The ECI also filed  a  counter  affidavit
stating that the EVMs provided by the Commission are  of  such  a  high  end
technology that it cannot be hacked.
12) Referring to Section 61A of the Representation of the People Act,  1951,
it is submitted that the Statute itself provides for recording of  votes  by
EVMs and the ECI has been given the discretion  to  prescribe  recording  of
votes by such EVMs as it may deem fit.  This discretion has to be  exercised
in a manner to preserve the sanctity of  the  election  process  and  ensure
that the election is conducted in a free  and  fair  manner.   The  ECI  has
exercised due diligence to ensure that EVMs so used are “tamper  proof”  and
it is also in the process of exploring to incorporate VVPAT system which  is
compatible with the present EVMs used by it.  It is asserted that  there  is
no instance of tampering with EVMs so far by anyone.
13)   It is further submitted that the EVMs used in  India  are  unique  and
unlike the ones used in the elections in USA and other countries, which  are
personal computer based.
 EVMs deployed by the  ECI  have  been  lauded  not
only in India but also abroad.  
EVM’s Control Unit  retains  in  the  memory
each vote recorded elector-wise.  
The information stored in  the  memory  of
the Control Unit can be retrieved by using a  device  called  the  “decoder”
which, when attached  to  the  Control  Unit  of  EVM,  can  print  out  the
statement of voting data showing the order in which  each  voter  has  voted
and to whom he has voted.
14)   Insofar as the transparency of the election process  as  well  as  the
right of a voter to know
whether his vote has  actually  been  recorded  for
the candidate for whom it was cast is concerned, it  is  submitted  that  as
soon as a vote is recorded by a voter by pressing the  “candidate’s”  button
on the Ballot Unit, a light  glows  against  the  name  and  symbol  of  the
candidate, which the voter can see for himself/ herself. 
 This is  a  visual
(electronic) assurance to the voter that the candidate for whom he has  cast
his vote has actually got that vote.  Thereafter,  the  light  goes  off  to
protect the secrecy of voting.
15)   It is further submitted that  the  feasibility  of  VVPAT  system  was
sought to be  explored  to  by  various  political  parties  and  they  were
explained  the  technical  and  administrative  safeguards.  
The  ECI  also
constituted a Technical Experts Committee to examine the  viability  of  the
VVPAT  system.  
On  27.05.2011,  the  Technical  Experts  Committee,  after
discussion with political parties and civil society members and  also  after
seeing the demonstration of the prototype VVPAT  system  developed  by  M/s.
Bharat Electronics Ltd. (BEL) and  M/s.  Electronics  Corporation  of  India
Ltd. (ECIL), recommended that a field test of  the  prototype  VVPAT  system
should be carried out in a simulated election under different  environmental
conditions in Jaisalmer,  Thiruvananthapuram,  Delhi,  Leh  and  Cherapunji.

The ECI also held  further  meetings  with  the  manufacturers  of  EVMs  on
various dates to fine tune the system and  expedite  the  follow  up  action
required.  Several meetings were also held  with  the  Expert  Committee  on
VVPAT system.
16)   In wider fulfillment of the objectives of the  field  trial,  the  ECI
has  requested  the  National  and  State  parties   to   extend   necessary
cooperation by getting involved in  the  trial  process  actively  and  also
witness the trial in order to have a first hand experience  of  the  system.

The ECI has also requested the individuals including  the  appellant  –  Dr.
Subramanian Swamy and the groups, who have been engaged with the ECI on  the
issue of EVM-VVPAT, to witness the trial.
17) We have carefully perused the  relevant  materials  and  considered  the
rival contentions.
Discussion
18)    When  the  matter  was  listed  before  this  Court  for  hearing  on
27.09.2012, Mr. Ashok Desai had brought  to  our  notice  that  the  ECI  is
contemplating foolproof method in EVMs for which  they  are  taking  various
steps in consultation with the Technical Experts Committee and the views  of
all recognized political parties.  Mr. Desai also promised to appraise  this
Court about the deliberations and the ultimate decision to be taken by  them
in this regard.  Accordingly, this Court granted sufficient time to the  ECI
to file Status Report regarding introduction of VVPAT system in EVMs  to  be
used in the elections.
19)   Pursuant to the directions of this  Court,  the  ECI  filed  a  Status
Report on the developments of VVPAT system.  In the said  report,  the  ECI,
citing various technicalities, prayed for further time to  make  the  system
more robust for the field conditions.
20)   On 15.12.2012, M/s BEL, Bangalore filed a report  showing  the  status
of development of  VVPAT  system  which  contains  changes  that  have  been
carried out in VVPAT from September to December,  2012  and  also  furnished
chronological changes made in VVPAT system after  the  field  trial  of  the
VVPAT system held in July and August, 2012.
21)   Pursuant to the directions of this Court, the  Secretary,  ECI,  filed
an affidavit highlighting the following steps/ information:
           “(i)  That vide its Affidavit dated 14.01.2013,  the  Commission
           had filed the status report regarding introduction of the  VVPAT
           system in the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).
           (ii)  That  subsequently,  in  the  Technical  Expert  Committee
           meeting held on 04.02.2013, the Committee approved the design of
           the VVPAT and decided that software fine tuning will be done and
           completed by the end of  February,  2013,  and  modified  design
           specifications  will  be  submitted  to  the  Technical   Expert
           Committee for approval.
           The Committee also recommended that the Commission may for using
           the VVPAT and that the VVPAT should be tried in a bye-election.
           (iii) That in the Technical Expert  Committee  meeting  held  on
           19.02.2013, the Committee finalized the VVPAT design.
           The manufacturers, namely, M/s. Bharat Electronics  Limited  and
           M/s. Electronics Corporation of India Limited  have  quoted  Rs.
           16,200/- (excluding duties, taxes  and  transport  charges)  per
           VVPAT system.
           The Commission has decided to purchase sufficient units of VVPAT
           for  trials  in  a  Bye-election,  at  an  approximate  cost  of
           Rs.72,90,000/-  (Rupees  seventy  two  lakh   ninety   thousand)
           approximately.
           (iv)   It  is  submitted  that  the  Commission   will   require
           approximately 13 lakh VVPAT units to be manufactures for 13 lakh
           EVMs presently available and roughly about Rs. 1690 crores  (One
           Thousand  Six  Hundred  Ninety  Crores)(i.e.  13  lakh  units  x
           Rs.13,000  per  unit)  are   required   for   the   purpose   of
           implementation of the  VVPAT  system  taking  into  account  the
           possible reduction in the cost per unit when produced in bulk.
           (v)   It is further submitted that in order to implement the new
           system the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 will require  certain
           amendments.
           In this connection, vide letter No. 3/1/2013/Vol.II/SDR/86 dated
           28.03.2013,  the  Commission  has   informed   the   Legislative
           Department of the Ministry of Law and  Justice  inter  alia  the
           various amendments required to the relevant parts of  Rules  49A
           to 49X, 66A, 55C, 56C, 57C  and  Form  17C  of  the  Conduct  of
           Elections Rules, 1961, as well as introduction of Rules 49MA and
           56D in the said Rules…
           (vi)  That the Commission has called for a meeting  of  all  the
           recognized National and State Parties on 10th May, 2013 for  the
           purpose  of  demonstration  of  VVPAT  unit  to  them  and   for
           discussion with them for eliciting their views regarding use  of
           VVPAT system in the elections.  The petitioner herein and others
           interested in the matter would also be invited at the meeting.”

22)   It is seen from the records that after various deliberations with  the
experts and persons concerned with the  technology,  the  Technical  Experts
Committee approved the final design of VVPAT units in its  meeting  held  on
19.01.2013.
 In order to meet the directions of this Court  and  for  proper
execution of VVPAT system, as noticed above, the ECI  in  its  letter  dated
28.03.2013, addressed to the Secretary to the Government of India,  Ministry
of Law and Justice stated that necessary ground work for  amendment  to  the
Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 (in relevant parts  in  Rules  49A  to  49X,
66A, 55C, 56C, 57C and Form 17C) may be made so that the  amendment  to  the
Rules can be notified immediately which will  enable  the  ECI  to  use  the
VVPAT system in bye-elections in consultation with  the  political  parties.
By placing all those materials, the ECI requested the Ministry  of  Law  and
Justice for drafting and notifying amendment Rules expeditiously.
23)   From the materials placed by the ECI, it is noted  that  the  purchase
order has been placed with M/s BEL and M/s ECIL for supplying  150  and  300
VVPAT units respectively at Rs. 16,200/- per  unit  excluding  excise  duty,
sales tax and transportation etc. costing Rs.  72,90,000/-  (approx.).   The
ECI has also highlighted that if the VVPAT  systems  are  ultimately  to  be
used with all the 13 lakh EVMs available, the total cost in the purchase  of
VVPAT units may come to about Rs. 1,690  crores,  taking  into  account  the
possible reduction in the cost per unit due to bulk production the cost  may
come to Rs. 13,000/- per unit approximately.
24)   The affidavit dated 21.08.2013, filed on  behalf  of  the  ECI,  shows
that the Ministry of Law and Justice,  on  24.07.2013,  referred  the  draft
notification to amend the Conduct of Election Rules,  1961  to  provide  for
use of VVPAT system of elections to the ECI  for  its  views  and  comments.
The ECI suggested certain minor modifications in the draft notification  and
sent the same back to the Ministry of Law and Justice on 02.08.2013  with  a
request to notify the amendment Rules at  the  earliest.   Accordingly,  the
Ministry of Law and Justice  notified  the  amendments  to  the  Conduct  of
Election Rules, 1961 in the Gazette of  India  vide  notification  No.  S.O.
2470(E) dated 14.08.2013 to enable use of VVPAT with EVMs.
25)      The aforesaid affidavit of the ECI also  shows  that  the  ECI  had
also convened a meeting of all the recognized National and  State  political
parties on 10.05.2013 and  demonstrated  before  their  representatives  the
working of VVPAT system.  Separately, on the same day, the ECI also  held  a
meeting with  individuals  including  the  appellant  herein  who  had  been
engaged with the ECI over the past several years regarding  the  functioning
of  EVMs.   VVPAT   system   was   demonstrated   before   them   as   well.
Representatives of political parties and other individuals  expressed  their
satisfaction over the VVPAT system.
Thereafter, the ECI had decided to  use
the  VVPAT  system  in  the  bye-election  from  51-Noksen   (ST)   Assembly
Constituency in the State of Nagaland.  Instructions  were  issued  to  hold
special meetings with the contesting  candidates  in  that  constituency  to
brief them about the use of VVPAT system.  The ECI  also  organized  special
training sessions for poll officers for the use  of  VVPAT  and  steps  were
taken to educate the electors for the same.
26)   After various hearings, when the matter was  heard  on  4.10.2013,  an
affidavit dated 01.10.2013 filed on behalf of  the  ECI  was  placed  before
this  Court.   The  said  affidavit  was  filed  to  place  on  record   the
performance/result of the introduction of  the  VVPAT  system  in  the  bye-
election from 51-Noksen (ST) Assembly Constituency  of  Nagaland  for  which
the poll was conducted on 04.09.2013 indicating the future course of  action
to be decided by the  ECI  on  the  basis  of  said  performance.   By  this
affidavit, it was brought to our notice that since VVPAT  system  was  being
used for the first time, the ECI has decided that intensive  training  shall
be given  to  the  polling  officers.   Members  of  the  Technical  Experts
Committee of the ECI also went to supervise training and the actual  use  of
VVPAT in the bye-election.  It is further stated that  the  ECI  also  wrote
letters  to  all  the  recognized  political  parties  and  other   persons,
including the appellant  herein,  engaged  with  the  ECI  on  this  subject
inviting them to witness the use of  VVPAT.   It  is  also  brought  to  our
notice that VVPAT was successfully used in all the 21  polling  stations  of
51-Noksen (ST) Assembly Constituency of Nagaland.  It was also  stated  that
as per the Rules, the paper slips of VVPAT shall  not  be  counted  normally
except  in  case  the  Returning  Officer  decides  to  count  them  on   an
application submitted by  any  of  the  candidates.   However,  since  VVPAT
system was being used for the first time in any election,  the  ECI  decided
on its own to  count  paper  slips  of  VVPAT  in  respect  of  all  polling
stations.  According to the  ECI,  no  discrepancy  was  found  between  the
electronic and paper count.
27)   In the said affidavit, it is finally stated that the ECI  has  decided
to increase the use of VVPAT units in a phased manner and for  this  purpose
the ECI has already written to the Government of India, Ministry of Law  and
Justice to issue administrative and financial sanction  for  procurement  of
20,000 units of VVPAT (10,000 each from M/s BEL and M/s ECIL) costing  about
Rs. 38.01 crore.
28)   Though initially the ECI was little reluctant  in  introducing  “paper
trail” by use of VVPAT, taking note  of  the  advantage  in  the  system  as
demonstrated by Dr. Subramanian Swamy, we issued several directions  to  the
ECI .  Pursuant to the  same,  the  ECI  contacted  several  expert  bodies,
technical advisers, etc.  They also had various meetings with  National  and
State level political parties,  demonstrations  were  conducted  at  various
places and finally after a thorough examination and full  discussion,  VVPAT
was used successfully in all the  21  polling  stations  of  51-Noksen  (ST)
Assembly Constituency of Nagaland.  The information furnished  by  the  ECI,
through the affidavit dated 01.10.2013, clearly shows that VVPAT  system  is
a successful one.  We have already highlighted that VVPAT  is  a  system  of
printing paper trail when the voter casts  his  vote,  in  addition  to  the
electronic record of the ballot, for the  purpose  of  verification  of  his
choice of candidate and also  for  manual  counting  of  votes  in  case  of
dispute.
29)   From the materials placed by both the sides,  we  are  satisfied  that
the  “paper  trail”  is  an  indispensable  requirement  of  free  and  fair
elections.  The confidence of the voters in the EVMs can  be  achieved  only
with the introduction of the “paper trail”.  EVMs with VVPAT  system  ensure
the accuracy  of  the  voting  system.   With  an  intent  to  have  fullest
transparency in the system and to restore the confidence of the  voters,  it
is necessary to set up EVMs with VVPAT system because vote  is  nothing  but
an act of expression which has immense importance in democratic system.
30)   In the light  of  the  above  discussion  and  taking  notice  of  the
pragmatic and reasonable approach of the ECI and considering the  fact  that
in general elections all over India, the ECI has to handle one million  (ten
lakhs) polling booths, we permit the ECI to introduce the  same  in  gradual
stages or geographical-wise in the ensuing  general  elections.   The  area,
State or actual booth(s) are to be decided by the ECI and the  ECI  is  free
to implement the same in a phased manner.  We  appreciate  the  efforts  and
good gesture made by the ECI in introducing the same.
31)   For implementation of such a system (VVPAT) in a  phased  manner,  the
Government of India is directed to  provide  required  financial  assistance
for procurement of units of VVPAT.
32)   Before parting with the case,  we  record  our  appreciation  for  the
efforts made by Dr. Subramanian Swamy as well as the ECI, in particular  Mr.
Ashok Desai and Ms. Meenakshi Arora, learned senior counsel for the ECI.
33)   With the above directions,  the  appeal  and  the  writ  petition  are
disposed of.   No  separate  order  is  required  in  the  applications  for
intervention.  Both sides are permitted to approach this Court  for  further
direction(s), if need arises.


                            ...…………….…………………………CJI


                               (P. SATHASIVAM)







                              .…....…………………………………J.


                              (RANJAN GOGOI)



NEW DELHI;
OCTOBER 8, 2013.
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