Row Over Voting Machines Reach Supreme Court, Election Panel Asked To Respond

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Row Over Voting Machines Reach Supreme Court, Election Panel Asked To Respond

Supreme Court has issued notice to Election Commission on plea that alleged EVMs could be tampered.

NEW DELHI:  The controversy over the electronic voting machines that started from Lucknow after the BJP's massive win in Uttar Pradesh and triggered a discussion in Rajya Sabha this week has reached the Supreme Court. On Friday, the top court issued notice to the poll panel on a petition that wanted the machines to be tested by international computer experts.

The petition was filed by a lawyer ML Sharma who claimed that the machines used in the recently-concluded elections in five states had been tampered with and should be thoroughly checked.

Mr Sharma plea comes weeks after Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati insisted that tampered EVMs and not voters was responsible for the BJP securing 312 seats in the 403-seat Uttar Pradesh assembly. Leaders of other political parties weighed in on the controversy, beginning with Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, the Congress and lately, the Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee. Some felt the machines may have been tampered, others such as Banerjee wanted a full-fledged discussion because the machines' credibility had been called into question.

This is not the first time that the voting machines tried by the Election Commission in 1998 in 16 constituencies and rolled out within five years for all elections have been challenged in a judicial forum. But the election panel had managed to convince the courts that it was impossible to tamper with EVMs, not just because it could not be hooked up to a computer to be reprogrammed but also because it was always kept under the panel's watchful eyes.

But the Election Commission's ambitious plan to introduce an attachment that would print the name of the party selected by voters to them that the machine had not been tampered with could have to slow down.

The poll panel wants to introduce the new system called VVPAT, or Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail, across the country by 2019 but the government hasn't released the Rs 3174 crore that the poll panel had asked for. Asked about the delay during the debate in the Rajya Sabha, law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said funding wasn't the problem but issues of logistics, storage, safety and security of VVPAT machines had to be sorted out first.

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