Election Commission challenges parties to prove EVMs can be tampered, Kejriwal still sceptical

The political tug of war over the Electronic Voting Machines' (EVM) reliability doesn't look like it's going to end any time soon, despite Election Commission (EC) throwing an open challenge to parties to prove that EVMs can be manipulated. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Thursday questioned the EC's invitation to prove EVM can malfunction. Kejriwal wondered why the Commission was not coming out with any official statement and pushing the news of the reported challenge through "sources" instead.

"Why are these stories ascribed to "sources"? How credible are they? Why hasn't EC issued any formal statement? Or is it just a plant? Has anyone actually seen any official statement from CEC? Am trying to get it since evening. Is this news correct?" he said in a series of tweets.

Representational image. Ibnlive

Representational image. Ibnlive

On Wednesday, the EC has thrown an open challenge to political parties doubting the veracity of the recently conducted Assembly elections, especially in Uttar Pradesh, where the Bharatiya Janata Party has secured a massive win. While the Commission is yet to decide on the exact date, it said the challenge would be held in the first week of May and could continue for ten days.

The last time such an event had taken place was in 2009 when 100 machines from different parts of the country were kept at Vigyan Bhawan. No one, EC claimed, could hack the electronic voting machines.

When Kejriwal had met Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi with a complaint on EVMs last week, he was told that the poll panel is planning such an event. This time, the venue could be Nirvachan Sadan, the EC headquarters.

The specifics would be decided by the Commission's technical expert committee on EVM and the details would be made public in the next couple of days. There is a strong possibility that EVMs used in the Uttar Pradesh elections could also be brought in for the challenge.

The delay in conducting such an exercise could be because of the EC rules according to which the machines cannot be taken out of the strong room for 40 days — a period within which an aggrieved person can file an election petition before the high court concerned. That period will end later this month, which is when the EC is expected to organise the exercise.

"From first week of May, experts, scientists, technocrats can come for a week or 10 days and try to hack the machines," an official source said. They said the challenge will be open for a week or 10 days.

The issue was first raked up by Bahujan Samaj Party after the BJP's sweeping victory in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, including at some Muslim dominated seats, which have traditionally been split between Samajwadi Party and BSP. It was only later that the issue found resonance amid other Opposition parties who raised the issue with EC and President Pranab Mukherjee, urging the poll panel to either use Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) at all poll booths or switch to the old ballet paper system for conducting elections.

VVPAT is an independent vote verification system for EVM that prints a paper slip immediately after a vote is cast, to help voters verify whether their vote was cast correctly.

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Apr 13, 2017 12:35:30 IST

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