Cabinet clears EC proposal for paper trail machines

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said after the Cabinet meeting that the government had approved the Election Commission's (EC) demand of Rs 3,173.47 crore for procuring 16.15 lakh Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) units.

In 2013, the Supreme Court said that the Election Commission must introduce the new machines called VVPATs (machines with Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail) in phases. The voter can see this slip through a screened window where it stays for seven seconds, and then it automatically gets cut and falls down into a sealed drop box.

With the Union Cabinet on Wednesday approving funds for the Election Commission to buy VVPAT machines, the poll panel said it would ensure paper trail with every electronic voting machine (EVM) for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. However, according to the Election Commission website, the machines "were used on experimental basis for the first time in 16 Assembly constituencies in the states of Madhya Pradesh (5) and Rajasthan (5) and the NCT of Delhi (6) in the general election to the respective Legislative Assemblies held in November 1998".

The EC's pitch for immediate sanction of funds for procuring VVPATs comes amid doubts raised by several parties, including BSP, Congress, Samajwadi Party and Aam Aadmi Party on the reliability and tamper-proof nature of EVMs.

The latest one, sent on March 22, stated that procurement of EVMs with Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trails (VVPATs) can not be delayed any longer given the prevailing environment.

Meanwhile, sixteen parties had recently petitioned the EC to revert to paper ballot system for greater transparency. "It is felt that the process of procurement of VVPATs can not be delayed any longer given prevailing environment", the commission said in its letter on March 22.

August 14, 2013: Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 was amended to facilitate the introduction of VVPAT units. Subsequently, order for 67,000 additional units was placed in 2015, out of which 33,500 have been supplied.

The decision of the Union Cabinet, which was taken today in the absence of Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, will enable the poll panel to deploy VVPAT units in all polling booths in 2019 General Election, acting as an additional layer of transparency for the satisfaction of voters.

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