Explained: How Electronic Voting Machines Become Legally Valid in India?

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Electronic Voting Machines and their compatibility with Indian laws, including the Representation of People Act 1951, became the subject of several court cases. In the 1980s, even before the widespread use of EVMs, the AC Jose vs. Sivan Pillai case sought a stay order on their use in Kerala elections. The Supreme Court, in its ruling on March 5, 1984, asserted that existing laws specified paper ballots and prohibited the use of alternative technologies, including electronic voting.

New Delhi (ABC Live): In India, a recurring trend emerges after elections, where various opposition parties allege that Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) have been manipulated by the incumbent government. Consequently, they demand a return to voting through paper ballots instead of relying on EVMs. The integration of Electronic Voting Machines into the democratic process in India marks a significant shift from the use of paper ballots.

Historically, India utilized paper ballots until the 1990s when the Election Commission of India, under the leadership of T.N. Seshan, introduced Electronic Voting Machines in the country's electoral system. The adoption of EVMs sparked debates and legal challenges, with the judiciary becoming a central arena for addressing concerns related to electronic voting.

Electronic Voting Machines and their compatibility with Indian laws, including the Representation of People Act 1951, became the subject of several court cases. In the 1980s, even before the widespread use of EVMs, the AC Jose vs. Sivan Pillai case sought a stay order on their use in Kerala elections. The Supreme Court, in its ruling on March 5, 1984, asserted that existing laws specified paper ballots and prohibited the use of alternative technologies, including electronic voting.

The initial use of EVMs on an experimental basis occurred in selected constituencies of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Delhi. The Supreme Court emphasized that adopting an alternate technology would necessitate an amendment to Indian parliamentary laws. Consequently, the Representation of People Act was amended in December 1988, introducing Section 61A, which empowered the Election Commission to deploy voting machines instead of paper ballots. This amendment became effective from March 15, 1989.

Despite the legal framework supporting EVMs, their reliability and concerns about potential fraud have continued to be contested in various lawsuits before state high courts and the Supreme Court of India. The judiciary has either dismissed many cases as frivolous or ruled in favour of the Election Commission and the legitimacy of EVMs. Notably, in the 2002 ruling on the J. Jayalalithaa and Ors vs. Election Commission of India case, the Supreme Court declared the use of EVMs in elections as constitutionally valid. 


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