Election Commission must order 100% verification of VVPATs




Shri Sushil Chandra

Chief Election Commissioner

Election Commission of India (ECI)


Shri Rajiv Kumar

Election Commissioner

Election Commission of India (ECI)


Shri Anup Chandra Pandey

Election Commissioner

Election Commission of India (ECI)


Dear S/Shri Satish Chandra, Rajiv Kumar, Pandey,

I refer to the report of the Citizens’ Commission on Elections (CCE), chaired by Justice Madan B Lokur. I wonder whether the ECI has examined the report carefully and come up with its response, in view of the far reaching implications of the findings that emerge from the report.

The credibility of the ECI rests squarely on the trust that the public repose in it. Both the political parties and the public at large, not only in India but in several other countries, have expressed serious concerns at the shortcomings of the technology of the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). Another concern expressed at the use of the EVMs in India is that an EVM-wise system of counting of votes, compared to the earlier practice of mixing the ballot papers from different polling booths in each constituency, violates the secrecy of voting, as it enables the candidates to identify the groups that have voted against them.

The first concern about the fallibility of the EVMs is based on technological considerations and it is the responsibility of the ECI to go one extra step to convince itself and the voters, beyond all reasonable doubt, that the EVMs cannot be subject to manipulation. It is not enough for the ECI to make a general statement in defence of the EVMs, without adequate technical proof and without a process of physical verification visible to the public. The only credible way that such a verification can instill confidence among the public is to compare the EVM count vis-a-vis a 100% count of the Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT), even if the latter involves some delay in counting.

If the ECI is genuinely ready to discharge that responsibility, in the specific case of the recent UP Assembly results, it should immediately order a 100% verification w.r.t the VVPATs in the case of the 131 constituencies in which the margin of wins was less than 5% of the votes polled. Such a verification should be done in the full view of all the political parties, also visible to the public. If it is revealed that the VVPAT count fails to match the EVM count even in the case of one constituency, the ECI must have the courage to order a similar verification for all the other constituencies. A similar verification is necessary for the remaining four Assembly polls.

If the ECI fails to respond to this suggested approach, it would only compound the public concern at the efficacy of the EVMs.

With reference to the second concern, that is, the need to maintain 100% secrecy of voting within each constituency by mixing the ballots, it touches the very heart of conducting elections in a free and fair manner, which is the primary mandate of the ECI under Section 128 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951. This has assumed considerable relevance today, when the political parties are competing with one another to win elections at any cost, if necessary, by dividing the electorate on the basis of caste, religion etc. The EVM system by itself, as things stand today, cannot address this concern. The ECI should either give up the EVM system altogether, or upgrade the EVM technology to allow 100% secrecy in voting in a given constituency. To this extent, all elections conducted so far with the help of the EVMs, should be deemed to have violated the basic requirement of secrecy. Considering that there is no prospect of a technical solution being found in the immediate future, I suggest that the ECI quickly takes a decision to give up counting on the basis of EVMs and fall back on manual counting of ballots in the coming assembly polls.

I sincerely hope that the judiciary takes a suo moto cognizance of this and subjects the elections conducted so far to judicial scrutiny from the point of view of their being consistent with the secrecy norm.

If the ECI wishes to remain a credible independent Constitutional body, it should consider these two suggestions objectively, without any extraneous consideration, and proceed firmly and decisively in a manner that fulfills the Constitutional obligation it has for conducting elections in a free and fair manner.

I hope that the ECI will act on the Justice Lokur committee findings in a transparent manner without any further delay, taking the public into confidence. As the custodian of a large democracy, the ECI cannot afford to act hesitatingly in these matters. What is at stake in this is the extent to which the ECI stands committed to the need to conduct elections in a free, fair and transparent manner.


Yours sincerely,

E A S Sarma

Former Secretary to Government of India



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