Thursday, March 21, 2019

Apprehensions About EVM Tampering Unfounded And Unjustified: Gujarat HC

The Gujarat High Court, on 19March , dismissed a lawyer's petition which raised apprehensions about malfunction and tamperability of Electronic Voting Machines. Advocate Khemchand Rajaram Koshti had approached the High Court challenging Rule 56(D)(2) of the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961, insofar as it vests discretion in the Returning Officer to reject an application for counting of the printed paper slips in the drop-box of the Printer. He also sought for a direction to ECI to ensure mandatory counting of those printed paper slips.

In a detailed judgment, the bench comprising the Acting Chief Justice Anant S. Dave and Justice Biren Vaishnav observed that apprehensions of a malfunction and tamperability of the EVMs are completely unfounded and unjustified. The bench, referring to reports of Election Commission of India, in this regard, said:

"We are assured that the firm conviction about the integrity and non-tamperability and credibility of the EVMs and the confidence in the robustness of the procedural safeguards as voiced in the communication dated 10.01.2019 by the Election Commission Of India, make the making process of the Returning Officer and the discretion so vested in him, under Rule 56(D)(2) beyond reproach." The bench further observed that it shall be loath to sit in judgement over the assurance of a constitutional authority like the Election Commission Of India. It said: "The entire step-wise procedural safeguards that the Election Commission undertakes in the manner of the conduct of elections through the EVMs and VVPATS, in exercise of its constitutional obligation under Article 324 of the Constitution Of India coupled with the technology, leaves no room of doubt for the petitioner to contend that the discretion of the Returning Officer to entertain an application under Rule 56(D) (2) of the Rules can be said to be an unguided discretion when they are qualified with the words that the rejection will only be on the ground of the application being frivolous or unreasonable. Such a rule existed even when the voting was carried out through the Ballot Box." The court also added that the use of ballot paper was time consuming, prone to malpractices booth-capturing and ballot box stuffing, while EVMs has made voting, from the perception of the voter, much simpler and voter-friendly. "The voter has to merely press a button on the Balloting Unit. Under the EVM system, there is no invalid vote unlike the ballot system where there were large number of invalid votes to an extent that in some cases the number of invalid ballot papers were more than the winning margin of the elected candidate. The EVMs are more auditable, accurate, transparent reducing human error. The Commission conducted several field trials and involved all stake holders and political parties in evolving a error free EVM"

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