The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Election Commission of India (ECI) to file an affidavit on a plea demanding use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) with Voter-Verifiable Paper Audit Trail Units (VVPAT) in the forthcoming Gujarat Assembly polls. The direction came from a bench of Chief Justice of India J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud after senior counsel Kapil Sibal, appearing for petitioner Reshma Vithalbhai Patel, an activist from Gujarat, stated that the ECI must be directed to use the VVPAT machines in its possession.
For the Centre, Attorney General K K Venugopal said the government had transferred Rs 2,616.3 crore to the ECI to enable it to buy 16,15,066 VVPAT units. They will be purchased “during the current and next financial year”, the Centre said. The petitioner had claimed that the use of EVMs without VVPAT units was unconstitutional and sought a direction from the court for use of ballot papers until EVMs are equipped with paper trail units.
The petition also said that “the EC had procured 20,300 VVPAT units in the past and the same were used, on a pilot basis, in elections held since 2013…upto the year 2016…”
The Centre said that by 2019 general elections, the ECI will be in a position to equip each EVM with a VVPAT unit. Objecting to this, Sibal said that the general elections were a long away and the ECI must be asked to use these machines in the Gujarat polls. The Centre said that even after procurement of the VVPAT units, substantial funds will be required for their storage, annual maintenance and in ensuring 24×7 security cover by police and paramilitary personnel. Therefore the Union of India and ECI have “decided for a gradual and phased procurement and deployment of VVPAT units with EVMs,” the counter affidavit added.