india voting
A woman smiles as she speaks with the election official while voting at a polling station, during the second phase of the general elections, at Bengaluru, in Karnataka, India April 26, 2024. Image Credit: Reuters

New Delhi: India’s Supreme Court declined on Friday to order any change to the vote-counting process, rejecting petitions seeking a return to the ballot system or to tally all paper slips generated as proof of voting for votes recorded by electronic machines.

The order comes days after India began voting in the elections on April 19, with votes due to be counted on June 4 and Prime Minister Narendra Modi widely tipped to win a rare third-straight term in the face of a struggling opposition challenge.

“Blindly discussing any aspect of the system can lead to unwarranted scepticism and impede progress,” Justice Dipankar Datta said, after the two judge-bench delivered a unanimous verdict.

“Instead, a critical yet constructive approach guided by evidence and reason should be followed to make room for meaningful improvements and to ensure the system’s credibility and effectiveness.”

India has been using Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) since 2000 to record votes. The ballot unit is connected to a VVPAT or ‘voter verifiable paper audit trail’ unit which produces a paper slip that is visible to the voter via a transparent screen for about seven seconds before it gets stored in a sealed drop box.

Under the present system, the poll body counts and matches the VVPAT paper slips at five randomly selected polling stations in each state legislative assembly constituency, several of which are combined to form one parliamentary seat.

Critics and watchdogs, including some political parties, want verification to be done at more booths to increase transparency.

The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), a non-government civil society group, petitioned the top court seeking verification of all EVM votes with VVPAT slips.