Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora on Thursday said there is no way the country will be "intimidated, bullied or coerced" into giving up electronic voting machines (EVMs), reports say.
Arora's remarks come in the aftermath of the EVM hacking charge levelled by self-proclaimed cyber expert Syed Shuja at a hackathon in London on Monday.
"We are open to any criticism and feedback from any stakeholder, including from political parties. At the same time, we are not going to be intimidated, bullied or coerced into giving up these and start the era of ballot papers," Arora said at an event in Delhi.
"I would like to make it very clear that we are not going back to the era of ballot papers," ANI quoted Arora as saying.
The event and Shuja's claims that the 2014 Lok Sabha elections won by the BJP were "rigged" kickstarted a political slugfest with the Congress and other Opposition parties calling for an inquiry and the BJP pointing a finger at the presence of senior Congress leader Kabil Sibal at the hackathon. Sibal went on to defend his presence at the event, saying he was there in his "personal capacity".
"VVPATs were introduced after charges that the EVMs could be tampered with were levelled by Opposition parties. But to say that EVMs, which have been used in elections for nearly two decades now, can be tampered with is wrong," the CEC added, according to News18.
VVPAT stands for voter-verifiable paper audit trail, a way of providing feedback to voters using a paperless voting system.
The Delhi Police, on Wednesday, registered a case based on a complaint filed by the Election Commission regarding Shuja's allegations. In its complaint, the poll panel had asked the police to investigate the matter "promptly" for violation of certain sections of the Indian Penal Code dealing with spreading rumours to "create fear" in the minds of people.
The Election Commission also said that all the "elections to the Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha are conducted with the EVMs manufactured by Electronics Commission of India Limited and Bharat Electronics Limited", both public sector undertakings. "The Supreme Court and various high courts have also endorsed the use of EVMs in elections through various judgments," the poll panel had highlighted in its complaint.
Shuja had alleged, at the event organised by the European chapter of the Indian Journalists' Association, that the BJP had manipulated the EVMs used in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections using a modulator that transmitted military-grade frequency.
Claiming that he had been part of the team that had made the EVMs used in the polls, Shuja said he could demonstrate how the voting machines could be hacked, though he did not proceed to do so at the press conference.
The most startling among the cyber security researcher's claims were that BJP leader Gopinath Munde, who died in a car accident in 2014, had been killed because he knew about the rigging, and that journalist Gauri Lankesh, too, was murdered as she had agreed to run a story on the EVM hacking after he approached her.
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Updated Date: Jan 24, 2019 12:24:50 IST