The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Election Commission to explore the possibility of introducing Vote Verifier Paper Audit Trail in EVMs to maintain paper record of each vote for upcoming assembly polls in five states and next general election in 2014.
The apex court's poser to the Election Commission came after the poll panel said VVPAT was successfully and satisfactorily utilised for Nagaland Assembly elections in February this year.
"Is it possible for you to introduce VVPAT in November-December assembly elections?," a bench comprising Chief Justice P Sathasivam and Justice Ranjan Gogoi asked the Election Commission.
"We will wait for 10 days and we are reserving the order," said the bench which was hearing a plea of BJP leader Subramanian Swamy seeking a direction to the poll watchdog to ensure EVMs have a paper trail and issue a receipt to each voter.
The bench, which adjourned the matter for two weeks, also asked the EC to consider whether VVPAT can be introduced in the Lok Sabha elections in 2014.
Senior advocates Ashok Desai and Meenakshi Arora, appearing for the Election Commission, said VVPAT can be introduced in a phased manner and cited the administrative and financial reasons for it.
They said approximately Rs 1,500 crore would be required for procuring VVPAT for installing it at all polling booths across the country for the Lok Sabha polls and there are only two state-owned companies -- Bharat Electronic Ltd and Electronics Corporation of India Ltd -- which manufacture the machines.
"The Election Commission has written to the Centre for administrative and financial requirement for VVPAT. We have sought 10,000 machines from each of the two companies. The machines have to be introduced in a phased manner and gradual style to cover one million polling booths," they said.
While the Election Commission was emphasising the introduction of VVPAT in phased manner, the bench asked "are you apprehensive for its introduction in 2014 Lok Sabha polls"?
Desai said "we are not completely" apprehensive. Swamy said both BEL and ECIL are capable of producing the number of machines required for the general elections.
At the outset, the bench applauded the effort of the Election Commission in coming out with the improvised version of EVMs. "We have gone through your additional affidavit. We are happy it is successful in Nagaland," the bench said and added that "nobody can dispute your (EC) initiative".
"In the begininning, we were a little apprehensive but the Election Commission has introduced it," the bench further said about VVPAT which ensures more transparent electronic voting.
In VVPAT system, when a voter presses button for the candidate of his choice in the Electronic Voting Machine, a paper ballot containing the serial number, name of the candidate and poll symbol will be printed and the voter can verify it.
A VVPAT is intended as an independent verification system for voting machines designed to allow voters to verify that their votes were cast correctly, to detect possible election fraud or malfunction and to provide a means to audit the stored electronic results.
During the earlier hearing, the Election Commission had said 13 lakh VVPAT machines would be needed for general elections.