Verification of Burnt Memory in EVMs and VVPATs: 2024 Guidelines and Procedures

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Overview:

Learn about the Supreme Court's directive for verifying the burnt memory of EVMs and VVPATs.

What’s in today’s article?

  • Why in News?
  • What is Burnt memory of EVMs and VVPAT units?
  • April 2024 order of the Supreme Court
  • Process to be followed for the verification

Why in News?

For the first time, 11 candidates from the recent 2024 Lok Sabha and State Assembly elections have requested verification of the burnt memory of EVMs and VVPAT units. This verification option was made available by the Supreme Court in April. Candidates must cover the verification costs themselves but will be refunded if tampering is detected.

What is Burnt memory of EVMs and VVPAT units?

  • The "burnt memory" of EVMs (Electronic Voting Machines) and VVPATs (Voter Verified Paper Audit Trails) refers to the non-volatile memory in these devices where data is stored permanently, even when the device is powered off. 
  • This memory contains critical information such as:
    • EVMs: Votes cast during the election, the configuration of the machine, and other operational details.
    • VVPATs: Printed records of the votes cast, which serve as a verifiable paper trail for the electronic votes.
  • The process aims to verify the integrity and accuracy of the election results recorded in the EVMs and VVPATs.

April 2024 order of the Supreme Court

  • Rejected the plea for 100% verification of VVPAT slips
    • On April 26, 2024, the Supreme Court upheld the EVM-VVPAT system and rejected a plea to return to ballot papers and for 100% counting of VVPAT slips.
  • Verification of the burnt memories of EVMs and VVPATs
    • The court directed the Election Commission of India (ECI) to allow verification of EVM and VVPAT burnt memories. 
    • This verification can be requested by second- and third-placed candidates. 
    • It applies to up to 5% of machines in an Assembly constituency or Lok Sabha segment.
      • The burnt memory/microcontroller in 5% of the EVMs, including the control unit, ballot unit, and VVPAT, should be checked for tampering by engineers from the EVM manufacturers upon written request by the second- or third-placed candidates. 
      • Candidates must identify the EVMs by polling station or serial number and can be present during the verification.
  • Cost of the process
    • Requests for verification must be made within seven days of the result declaration. 
    • The candidates must bear the verification costs, which will be refunded if tampering is found.

Process to be followed for the verification

  • Technical SOP Pending
    • The ECI is yet to finalize the technical standard operating procedure (SOP).
    • The technical SOP, including the methodology, will be released in time for the first set of verifications likely in August.
  • Administrative SOP Released
    • On June 1, the ECI released the administrative SOP for checking and verification of the burnt memory of EVMs and VVPATs.
  • Responsibilities and Requests
    • The District Election Officer (DEO) will be responsible for the process.
    • Second- and third-placed candidates can request verification of up to 5% of the EVMs and VVPATs per Assembly constituency or Lok Sabha segment.
    • If both candidates request verification, each is allowed to have 2.5% of the EVMs verified.
    • Candidates can choose the units to be verified by polling station number or unique serial number of the Ballot Unit, Control Unit, and VVPAT.
  • Application Process
    • Candidates must make the request in writing to the respective DEOs.
    • A deposit of Rs 40,000 (plus 18% GST) per set of EVM (BU, CU, and VVPAT) is required to the manufacturer.
    • DEOs will send a list of applications to the state Chief Electoral Officer.
    • The Chief Electoral Officer will notify the EVM manufacturers, Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) and Electronics Corporation of India Ltd (ECIL), within 30 days of result declaration.
  • Timing and Conditions for Checking
    • Checking will start at the end of the 45-day period after results are declared, during which Election Petitions can be filed.
    • If no Election Petitions are filed, checking will commence.
    • If a petition is filed, checking will start only after a court order allowing it.
    • The process is to start within 30 days of manufacturers being notified of any Election Petitions.
    • Mid-August is the earliest that results of the checks can be known.
  • Verification Process
    • Checking will be done at designated halls within the manufacturers’ facilities.
    • Facilities will have strong rooms and CCTV cameras.
    • Electronic devices, including cell phones and cameras, are not allowed inside the halls.
    • The hall will have a single entry and exit, with armed police force deployed.

Q.1. What is Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL)?

Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) is an Indian state-owned aerospace and defense company, established in 1954, specializing in designing and manufacturing advanced electronic products for the defense sector.

Q.2. What is Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs)?

Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) are electronic devices used to record and tally votes in elections. They consist of two main units: a Control Unit, operated by election officials, and a Ballot Unit, used by voters to cast their votes. EVMs aim to ensure accurate, efficient, and tamper-proof voting and counting processes.

Source: 11 candidates apply to verify EVM burnt memory: what is this process?