On table, EVMs with printouts
New Delhi, April 9: The poll panel today informed the Supreme Court that a prototype gadget had been developed to print out a voter’s choice of candidate and party punched in an electronic voting machine.
Called the voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT), the machine is expected to help check misgivings about tampering with EVM during elections.
The apex court had asked the Election Commission to examine a PIL filed by Subramanian Swamy suggesting that the government revert to the paper ballot system as in most countries EVMs had been junked on fears that vested interests could easily tamper with voter choice.
Swamy had suggested that EVMs must at least have a provision to give a printout of a voter’s choice, if returning to paper ballots was not feasible.
Poll panel senior counsel Ashok Desai told the court a meeting of all parties would be called after the Karnataka polls next month to demonstrate how the new machines function.
He said the machines, if considered satisfactory, would cost the exchequer Rs 1,690 crore as 13 lakh of them were required to conduct the general election. They are being manufactured by Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) and Electronic Corporation of India Limited (ECIL).
Desai said the gadgets could be introduced on an experimental basis during Assembly bypolls.
In its status report, the poll panel said trials had been conducted in 180 polling stations in Thiruvananthapuram, Delhi, Jaisalmer, Cherrapunji and Leh in July 2011 in the presence of political parties, the civil society and the media.
On analysis of the results, a team of technical experts, headed by IIT teachers, found that certain improvements were required in the VVPAT. An improved prototype was manufactured by May 2012 and tested at the same polling stations in July-August 2012.
“The improved prototype VVPAT worked much better in the second field trial. However, on detailed analysis it was found that it still needed some improvement in reliability and so a few more improvements are still required in the VVPAT system before it can be considered for use in an election,” the status report said.
“The commission asked the EVM manufacturers to accelerate their development and further fine-tune the design of VVPAT system for making it suitable for use in election at the earliest. BEL and ECIL are working on improvement in the design of VVPAT system. The commission and the technical expert committee are continuously monitoring the development with BEL and ECIL in this regard.”