On January 17, the Delhi High Court ruled that although the highly tom-tommed Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) used in our elections are NOT tamperproof, it is still not in a position to issue any directive to the Election Commission (EC). However, it added that since EVMs are the backbone of our election process, needful should be done to dispel doubts. I am no technology expert but if one goes through the arguments made by Subramanian Swamy and the defence put up by the EC, they both seem to have a point. While Swami, and indeed experts all over, have been able to prove that EVMs can be tampered with, and it is for that reason that several technologically more advanced nations are loathe to try them out, EC too made it quite clear that tampering is extremely difficult and almost impractical to make any material difference to the final result.
I know a lot of people will be upset with this defence of EC, for, why should there be any ambiguity about a machine that the honourable courts too agree is the ‘backbone of our election process’. But what most seem to have let pass, bafflingly so, is not that, but the argument put forth by the EC’s counsel during the hearing. In the middle of all submissions during the hearing, the counsel made a startling statement that although the EVMs can be tampered with, “returning to ballot papers would not be feasible as it would require immense expenditure as there are now 73 crore voters in the country.” Wow! Did he really say that? Apparently he did, and I am amazed none has taken it up and blasted the EC for this.
One can give the EC the benefit of doubt on the other technical arguments, but this? Since when has the world’s ‘largest functioning democracy’ decided that conducting elections are too expensive and thus it is willing to deploy a process that is less than fool proof? I am not saying we are a rich nation and should not be bothered about expenses. If anything, there is a crying need to curb the use of huge dirty money in elections, but that certainly does not extend to how the elections are organised. The bedrock of our democracy is elections, and if the very body that has been created for conducting them raises nonsensical arguments in courts, one needs to get worried. This is the body that, thanks to TN Seshan, has developed teeth and has demonstrated that it can bite too.