Less than a month before the national elections, 21 opposition parties have approached the Supreme Court, asking that Electronic Voting Machines be made tinker-proof. A top court bench, led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, would hear their petition today.
Since the 2017 assembly elections, in which the BJP had a sweeping victory in Uttar Pradesh, the opposition contended that the voting machines have been tinkered with at the behest of the BJP.
The petitioners want more safety norms and strict standards for the Electronic Voting Machines. They also want 50 per cent of VVPAT (Voter Verified Paper Trail Audit Machines) to be tallied with the voting machines.
The Election Commission had sought the report of Indian Statistical Institute on how many VVPAT slips per constituency can be counted and tallied with EVM machines. Political parties wanted 10 to 30 per cent of VVPAT slips be counted.
The Commission will take a decision once the report comes. Sources in the Commission told NDTV that whatever recommendations are given by the Indian Statistical Institute would be accepted.
While announcing the schedule elections earlier this week, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora said "most parties" have reposed their faith in Electronic Voting Machines, some have made it part of a "motivated slugfest".
The parties that went to court today include the Congress, Chandrababu Naidu's Telugu Desam Party, Sharad Pawar's NCP, Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party, the Left parties, Ssamajwadi Party and Mayawati.
Mr Kejriwal, whose party fared dismally at the hustings in Punjab, had been one of the most vocal critics of Electronic Voting Machines. Mayawati, whose party has called for a return to paper ballots.
The opposition parties initially contacted the Election Commission, which contended that EVMs cannot be manipulated unless security and administrative safeguards are breached. "If someone steals the machine and changes the mother board - till such time these are tamper proof," former Election Commissioner OP Rawat had told NDTV.
The Commission also said parties which lose in elections often look for a "scapegoat" and the EVM is a soft target that as it "cannot speak for itself".
After repeated assurances that the machines cannot be tampered with, the Election Commission issued a challenge asking anyone to hack into an EVM. But there were no takers.