Supreme Court on EVMs

Ever since the UP election results were out, allegations of electronic voting machines or EVMs having been tampered with or ‘programmed’ in such a way that any button pressed would register the vote in one particular candidate’s favour have been made by Mayawati, Akhilesh and Rahul and Arvind Kejriwal. BSP leader Mayawati was the first to question the proper functioning of the EVMs. She claimed that her winning only nineteen seats in the Assembly elections defied any explanation. For many, it was a mystery why, apparently, the Muslims voted en masse for the BJP, a party which had not fielded a single Muslim candidate. Muslim women were supposed to have voted for the BJP because of its opposition to Triple Talaq. A plausible but rather unconvincing argument.
The matter was referred to the Supreme Court for ordering a probe. The plea sought examination of the ‘quality, software/malware and hacking effect’ in the EVMs by a ‘reliable electronic laboratory or scientist and software expert and submit their findings to the court ‘for further action/prosecution.’ The apex court has now referred the matter to the Election Commission for its ‘response’. The court order implies that there is a prima facie case for a thorough probe.  Allegations of rigging are almost as old adult franchise itself. Indeed, the charge of ‘rigging’ has been levelled against Donald Trump in the recently held US presidential elections. Trump’s victory came as a shock and surprise to many. Many in this country are now demanding that the old system of voting by ballot paper should be brought back. But there were frequent allegations of chhappa vote or bogus voting by wholesale stamping of ballot papers during those days.
Putting in place a tamper-proof voting system in which each individual voter’s preference for a particular candidate is truly and correctly recorded is the sine qua non of democracy. Parties and candidates do their utmost to influence the voters. That is part of electioneering. But once the campaign has ended and the voter has listened to the arguments of all the contesting candidates he will have to make up his/her mind and exercise his/her franchise for the candidate (s)he has chosen. The choice has to be correctly recorded
What the Election Commission’s ‘response’ will be to the reliability of the EVMs in the instant case will be known in due course. But what is imperative for our still developing democracy is for all the stakeholders in the elections – the EC, the political parties, the police and the magistracy – to sit together and devise a mechanism which can prevent any attempt to undo or reverse the voter’s choice.

Tuesday, 28 March, 2017