The e-democracy route

Then started the game of democracy and elections became the mainstay of political parties and its leaders. The electoral process entered a new phase and reached new heights. The improvements initiated by S L Shakdhar, the 6th Election Commissioner of India, formed the edifice for electoral reforms.

Around this time, the first EVM developed by BEL and used in its trade union election, drew  the  EC’s attention. A team was deputed to BEL to study the EVM. 

After many evaluations and validations, EC decided to introduce EVMs in elections. In the Goa EC conference, an EVM was demonstrated and Hyderabad-based Electronics Corporation of India (ECIL) and BEL were shortlisted. The then Lok Sabha parliament committee had the power to select the EVM. ECIL got the order. Two hundred demo EVMs developed by BEL were handed over to EC, free.

The EVM was first used in 1982 in the Parur by-election in Kerala, in 50 polling stations. A few machines failed. The defeated candidate filed a case against EC in the Supreme Court.

The EC decided to have a second agency - BEL - to procure EVMs. Between 1982-83, EVMs were used on a trial basis in 11 state assembly elections.  In 1984, SC gave its verdict on the Parur poll and ordered the EC to amend the Representation of People Act to introduce EVMs in elections. The Act was  amended  in 1989.

Many political parties raised doubts about the EVM. The Government constituted a team under the chairmanship of then IIT Chennai director Dr Indiresan to study the EVM. The justice Dinesh Goswamy Commission was also constituted to look into EVM related issues. Both teams favoured EVMs.

Then EC M S Gill asked the Government to use EVMs nationwide. BEL and ECIL introduced additional features like error indications and voting speed control to avoid booth capturing.  Starting with 45 Lok Sabha seats in 1999, all 28 states and two Union Territory elections were held with EVMs in 2004. The 2009 LS poll was also completely EVM-driven.


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