Supreme Court backs EVMs

 Why is it in the news?

  • The Supreme Court upheld the electronic voting machine (EVM) system of polling and rejected a plea to reinstate paper ballots.

More about the news

  • The Supreme Court refused to allow electors to take a leisurely look at paper slips from Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) units before inserting them into the ballot boxes.
  • It declined to mandate the cross-verification of 100% Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and VVPATs nationwide, maintaining the current practice of random verification of five percent of EVM-VVPAT counts in any given Assembly constituency.
  • The court directed the Election Commission of India (ECI) to “seal and secure” the Symbol Loading Unit (SLU) for 45 days after the declaration of election results, expanding the storage requirement beyond the current practice of storing only the three components of the EVM — the ballot unit, control unit, and VVPAT.
  • Candidates are now allowed to check the one-time programmable software in the Ballot Unit (BU), Control Unit (CU), and VVPAT for tampering, if they have doubts regarding the result. This verification involves inspecting the burnt memory/microcontrollers of these three components.

·        Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) are devices used to electronically record and count votes cast in elections.

·        EVMs were first utilized in 1982 in the Assembly constituency of Paravur in Kerala, initially deployed in 50 out of 123 booths.

·        An EVM comprises two main parts: a ‘control unit’ and a ‘balloting unit’, connected by a 5-meter cable.

·        The control unit, under the custody of an Election Commission-appointed polling officer, serves as the central processing unit or “brain” of the EVM.

·        The balloting unit is located within the voting compartment, where voters cast their votes in secret by pressing buttons corresponding to the names and symbols of their chosen candidates.

·        Activation of the balloting unit occurs only after the polling officer presses the ‘Ballot’ button on it, initiating the voting process.


·        Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) serves as an independent verification system for voting machines, enabling voters to confirm that their votes were cast accurately.

·        VVPAT contains the name and symbol of the candidate for whom the vote was cast.

·        When a vote is cast, the VVPAT machine, attached to the ballot unit (BU) of the EVM, prints out a slip of paper displaying the voter’s choice.

·        The printed slip remains behind glass for seven seconds, allowing the voter to verify that the vote has been recorded correctly, before it falls into a box underneath.

·        The concept of the VVPAT machine emerged in 2010, with its first usage occurring in the Noksen Assembly constituency of Nagaland in 2013.

·        Amendments to the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961, in 2013 allowed for the attachment of a printer with a drop box to the EVM.

·        Starting from 2017, 100% of VVPATs began to be used in polls, and the 2019 Lok Sabha elections marked the first general election to have 100% of EVMs attached to VVPATs.

Symbol Loading Unit (SLU)

·        The Symbol Loading Unit (SLU) is utilized to load the symbols of candidates onto the Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines.

·        Candidate-setting using the SLU typically occurs between five to two days before voting at a particular seat.

·        Once the symbols are loaded onto the VVPAT, the SLU becomes irrelevant to the actual voting process.

·        After symbol-loading is completed, the SLUs are handed over to the concerned district election officer for safekeeping until the day after voting.


  • While the VVPAT system in India aims to enhance transparency and accountability in elections, it faces criticism and scrutiny regarding effectiveness, cost, and implementation challenges.
  • Overcoming these concerns requires efforts to improve the reliability, accessibility, and public acceptance of the VVPAT system, as “blind distrust” impedes progress.

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