Understanding the Supreme Court’s Verdict on EVM Verification and Voter Rights

Posted On - 8 May, 2024 • By - King Stubb & Kasiva


The Supreme Court’s decision on April 26th to dismiss petitions requesting 100% cross-verification of vote count in electronic voting machines (EVMs) with Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) paper slips highlights its trust in the current electoral system while also recognizing the necessity for enhancements. By rejecting the plea for comprehensive cross-verification and declining to bring back paper ballots, the Court demonstrates confidence in the existing mechanisms. However, this decision doesn’t negate the acknowledgment of areas for improvement within the electoral process.

About the judgement:

In their verdict, Justices Sanjiv Khanna and SVN Bhatti, composing the Bench, issued a set of directives aimed at fortifying the current electoral framework. The decision to seal Symbol Loading Units (SLUs) post-symbol loading and store them alongside EVMs for 45 days post-polling reflects a concerted effort to bolster security and transparency in the electoral process. Furthermore, the suggestion to incorporate an electronic machine for tallying paper slips and bar codes alongside party symbols signifies a move towards modernizing and simplifying the counting process. However, the Court’s dismissal of appeals for voters to physically insert VVPAT paper slips into ballot boxes has elicited concerns among activists and citizens advocating for heightened transparency. Led by the non-profit Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), petitioners had pressed for extensive verification of EVM data against VVPAT records, citing voters’ fundamental right to verify their votes’ accuracy and counting. While the Court’s decision might be perceived as a setback to these demands, it acknowledges the imperative for enhancing voter confidence and electoral integrity.

The Election Commission of India (ECI) defended the existing system, citing that it has matched EVM votes with over 4 crore VVPAT slips without recording any discrepancies. The ECI also reassured the Court that manipulating EVMs is impossible and counting 100% VVPAT slips would be impractical due to time constraints. Additionally, EVM manufacturers have no knowledge of button allocations or machine destinations, further ensuring the system’s integrity.

The court further stated that a thorough verification process will be conducted on 5% of Electronic Voting Machines in each assembly constituency/segment of a parliamentary constituency. This verification specifically targets the burnt memory/microcontroller in the control unit, ballot unit, and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail devices. After the announcement of election results, a team of engineers from the EVM manufacturers will carry out this verification upon written request from candidates ranked second or third behind the highest polled candidate. Candidates or their representatives will identify the specific EVMs by polling station or serial number, with the option for all candidates and their representatives to be present during the verification process.

Requests for verification must be made within 7 days from the date of result declaration. The District Election Officer, in consultation with the engineering team, will certify the authenticity or intactness of the burnt memory/microcontroller post-verification. The Election Commission of India (ECI) will notify the actual costs or expenses for this verification, to be covered by the requesting candidate. However, if tampering is found, these expenses will be refunded.


The Supreme Court’s ruling reflects a delicate balance between maintaining the efficiency of the electoral process and addressing concerns regarding transparency and accountability. While rejecting the demand for wholesale changes, the Court has taken steps to enhance the existing system, indicating a commitment to ensuring free and fair elections in the world’s largest democracy. However, the debate surrounding electoral reforms and the protection of voters’ rights is likely to continue, with stakeholders advocating for further measures to bolster the electoral framework and strengthen democratic principles.