Video Editor: Puneet Bhatia
“I would say VVPAT slips should be counted 100 percent. Then, questions are raised on the amount of time taken. Number one, time should not matter, credibility should.”SY Quraishi, former Chief Election Commissioner of India
The former Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi who had always defended the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) and the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) systems – told The Quint that the Election Commission of India (EC) should count 100 percent paper slips rather than EVM votes.
The Quint has reported a series of articles highlighting EVM-VVPAT vulnerabilities and the EC’s lack of transparency in addressing the issue.
Here is the full interview with SY Quraishi.
Due to lack of transparency and vulnerabilities of the EVM voting system, there is a demand for ballot paper voting. What do you have to say?
Returning to the ballot paper would be a step backward. I would say, VVPAT slips should be counted 100 percent. Then, questions are raised on the amount of time taken. Number one, time should not matter, credibility should. But, it should not even take time, as I have checked with people who have been conducting the VVPAT election. Counting one VVPAT slip from one machine takes about 20-25 minutes and the EVM takes the same time. We should not dispense the EVM as it is essential, it should stay. (The VVPAT) is just a 3-inch slip on which one vote is mentioned – either candidate A, B or C. It is much easier to count. So, (the EC) should try it out.
Why is a cloak of secrecy maintained over the EVM-VVPAT? Because, as per cyber experts, the source code and the component used in the EVM-VVPAT should be made public.
I would like to say, and it was my attitude even then (when I was the Chief Election Commissioner) that anybody who is questioning the EVM shouldn’t be treated as an anti-national or an enemy. You have to treat him as a friend. If you point out some flaw, which I had not noticed, and on the basis of which I get the EVM-VVPAT examined, you are actually doing me and the nation a favour by improving the system. So, all those who are questioning the EVM-VVPAT should be brought onboard and should provide proof rather than (the EC) looking down on them and treating them as hostile people, which is wrong.
The Election Commission should not maintain secrecy. It should be transparent. The EC is like a glasshouse, and everything should be visible to the people. I would suggest that everything (related to EVM-VVPAT) should be out in open and nothing should be held back.
Do you think the EC is not addressing concerns related to the EVM-VVPAT?
I have been cautioning the EC about one thing – when a political party is doubting our system and the machine, it is easy for us to call them and persuade them to accept our point of view. But, once it percolates into the public’s mind, it is impossible to change their minds. Unfortunately, what we see now...I am on social media and every time I open it, 10 people pounce on me, asking about my opinion on the EVM. Any suspicion in the public’s mind about the EVM is very unfortunate. The EC should be concerned about it, and it should do everything to dispel such notions.
Is it correct to declare election results on provisional data?
To say that the exact figures (of votes polled or counted) will be known after a few days is wrong and unacceptable. When the polling is over, say 650 votes have been cast in a machine. That number is sacrosanct and known to everybody. Everybody knows that this particular machine has 650 votes. So, the polling data is known by the evening. And the counting day data is known as soon as you open the machine. The figures are there, and they are exact. To say that they are tentative is absolutely not understandable to me.
What do you have to say about some of the crucial matters related to the EVM-VVPAT that are pending in the Supreme Court?
Why should the Supreme Court decide about these discrepancies? A detailed statement from the EC should have been good enough. What surprises me frankly is that why is the SC taking so long? These issues are of national importance, and our democracy is dependent on them. And the SC taking so long on such cases is another cause of concern. I had always said that the SC is the guardian angel of democracy and the EC, but this is something I used to say earlier. However, some cases of this nature, like statistics and electoral bonds, have been pending for years – that is not desirable or a happy situation at all.
Do you think the functioning of the EC is being questioned?
Not that there were no mistakes in our time. Eleven million people were conducting elections. Somebody somewhere will make a mistake. Any question mark on the EC is a matter of national concern. The person to be concerned about it should be the Commission itself, and they should introspect on why people are raising questions and take corrective measures as well. The trust of the people and the (almost) blind faith we had in our time has eroded a bit because the EC is not prompt in its communications.