As India gears up for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, the spotlight once again falls on Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and Voter-Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) systems, the backbone of the country’s electoral process. Over the years, these technologies have evolved, faced controversies, and become central to discussions on electoral integrity and transparency.
Evolution of EVMs and VVPATs:
The journey of EVMs began in 1977 when the concept was first conceived, leading to the development of prototypes by public sector undertakings like Electronics Corporation of India Ltd. (ECIL) and Bharat Electronics Ltd. (BEL). EVMs were first used in the 1982 Kerala Legislative Assembly elections but faced legal challenges due to the absence of specific legislation.
In 1989, an amendment to the Representation of the People Act empowered the Election Commission of India (ECI) to use EVMs. Since then, EVMs have gradually replaced paper ballots in elections across India, culminating in their use in all 543 parliamentary constituencies since the 2004 Lok Sabha elections.
The introduction of VVPATs further enhanced the transparency and verifiability of the electoral process. After extensive trials and amendments to election rules, VVPATs were first used alongside EVMs in a bye-election in Nagaland in 2013. These machines provide voters with a paper receipt confirming their vote, addressing concerns about tampering and manipulation.
Controversies Surrounding EVMs:
Despite their widespread adoption, EVMs have been mired in controversy, with doubts raised about their reliability and security. Political parties, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress, have at different times questioned the integrity of EVMs, especially during election results that did not favor them.
Allegations of EVM tampering and election fraud have led to legal challenges in courts across India. The Supreme Court has addressed several cases related to EVMs and VVPATs, emphasizing the importance of transparency and the integrity of the electoral process.
In response to concerns raised by petitioners, the Election Commission has implemented measures to enhance the credibility of EVMs and VVPATs, including increasing the number of polling booths subjected to mandatory VVPAT verification.
Legal Landscape and Recent Developments:
The legal framework surrounding EVMs and VVPATs has evolved to address emerging challenges and ensure the integrity of elections. Court rulings, such as the Supreme Court’s directives on VVPAT verification and scrutiny, have shaped the implementation of electoral technology in India.
However, the recent batch of cases seeking thorough VVPAT verification highlights ongoing concerns about the electoral process’s robustness. While the Supreme Court has reserved its verdict on these matters, it has cautioned against excessive suspicion and emphasized the need for a balanced approach.
As India prepares to vote in the upcoming elections, the role of EVMs and VVPATs remains pivotal in determining the legitimacy and fairness of the electoral outcome. While the Election Commission continues to uphold the integrity of these technologies, it is essential for stakeholders to address concerns and ensure public confidence in the electoral process.
In conclusion, the evolution of EVMs and VVPATs reflects India’s commitment to democratic principles and electoral transparency. While controversies persist, legal interventions and technological advancements strive to uphold the sanctity of the electoral process, ensuring that every vote counts and democracy thrives.

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