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SC issues notice on BSP plea for EVMs with paper trail

The Supreme Court on Thursday issued notice to the Centre and the Election Commission on a plea by the BSP that EVMs must be used along with Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) as directed by the apex court in 2013.

While issuing the notice, Justice J. Chelameswar and Justice S. Abdul Nazeer allowed the Congress, Trinamool Congress and the Samajwadi Party to also move their intervention applications.

Issuing notice on the Bahujan Samaj Party plea for the use of EVMs with VVPAT, the bench, on the submission by senior counsel P. Chidambaram, deleted the prayer for quashing of elections held with EVMS without VVPAT.

The court was told that every political party, including the Bharatiya Janata Party, has protested against EVMs at some point.

Addressing the bench, Chidambaram, appearing for the BSP, told the court that despite repeated reminders by the Election Commission, the government had not released the funds for fixing EVMs with VVPAT.

He told the court that the Election Commission had sent 10 reminders to the government seeking funds for VVPAT.

The court was told that last year only 10,000 EVMs were fixed with VVAPT. At this pace, it would require 150 years to fit all the EVMs with VVPAT.

He told the court that in a departure from normal practice, the Election Commission had directly written to the Prime Minister on the issue. This amounted to a SOS.

He told the court that for attaching VVPAT to all EVMs, the poll panel required Rs 3,000 crore. So far only Rs 16 lakh had been released.

As senior counsel Kapil Sibal, appearing for Congress, said that except for a country in South America, no other country in the world uses EVMs, the bench reminded him that it was his party that had introduced the EVMs and EVMs were a remedy to booth capturing and other ills.

"If a can invent something, B can hack it. A man sitting in Europe can hack Pentagon," the court was told.

At this, Justice Chelameswar said this cannot be the reason for the court to look into the plea and it would examine the issue on its merit.

Chidambaram referred to a report of a group of experts from an American university who said EVMs were vulnerable to attack and the election results can be altered.

"EVM is a technological improvement but science has improved and was moving faster and we have to keep pace with it."

The bench was told that both the hardware and software of the EVMs were vulnerable to attacks and there had to be a verification mechanism.

He said whether EVMs have recorded the vote correctly or not can only be verified by the printed paper recording the vote.

The top court had in October 2013 said that the EVMs with VVPAT was an indispensable requirement for free and fair elections.

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