High Court EVMs cannot be tampered with wi-fi, electronic devices: EC...

EVMs cannot be tampered with wi-fi, electronic devices: EC tells Madras HC

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Chennai, Mar 31 (ILNS) The Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) cannot be tampered with by any Wi-Fi, radio or electronic device, thus making them a safe and secure means of having a free and fair election, the Election Commission of India (ECI) submitted before the Madras High Court.

The Commission made the submissions in its counter-affidavit, filed in response to the Court’s queries on a petition moved by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) party for directions to ensure free and fair Legislative Assembly elections before the Bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy.

After recording the EC’s assurances on various fronts, including the security of EVMs, video surveillance of polling stations, VVPAT counting and the age of voting machines to be used, the Bench disposed off the petition.

“It is hoped that this day next week will pass of as peacefully and uneventfully as today seems to be going. However, the Election Commission should be alert and proactive and most importantly ensure that the second surge of the pandemic is not accelerated by the activities undertaken on Election Day,” the Bench observed.

Senior Advocate P Wilson appeared for the DMK, while Advocate Niranjan Rajagopalan appeared for the ECI.

The Commission said the identification of critical and vulnerable polling booths has been done after consulting 12 major political parties. The final list of such booths was accidentally released to political parties by electoral officers in Tirupur and Dindigul. The information pertaining to the remaining critical/vulnerable booths cannot be released to the political parties on account of security concerns, it added.

The Court accepted the submission. It also declined to peruse the full list of such polling stations submitted in sealed covers, choosing to rely only on the submissions made in open court.

According to the EC, CCTV coverage and webcasting will be there for 100 percent of critical or vulnerable polling stations (about 11,000 – 537 critical and 10, 813 vulnerable booths). This would be part of the nearly 44,000 polling stations that would have such monitoring, constituting about 50 percent of all polling stations in Tamil Nadu.

Electoral officials will monitor the activity being surveilled on election day. Others or the general public would not have such real time access. However, this footage will be recorded for inspection later, it assured. Chief Justice Banerjee orally cautioned that the ECI should ensure that the footage is not tampered with. “You control it… but not a second of it should be wiped out, there should be no glitch,” he said.

The Commission further said that M3 voting machines, which were manufactured between 2017-2019, would be used for the elections. Older machines would not be used. On VVPAT counting, it said the random counting of votes in accordance with the Supreme Court’s directions would not affect the Returning Officer’s power to do a random counting of votes on the candidate’s request.

However, the Court cautioned “an arbitrary of whimsical request by a political party to stall the election process or merely desire that the paper trail should be counter to abuse the candidate may not be a good ground for the Returning Officer to accede to such request.”

The EC said pre-poll guarding of the EVMs would be conducted in accordance with the Election Manual. EVMs handed over to the polling booth is checked before polling is started and only if it reveals ‘nil’ votes, is the machine used. Every EVM is sealed and the candidates’ signatures are obtained across the seal. The seals are not opened or broken till the period of limitation after the conduct of the poll runs out and no challenge to the election to the relevant constituency has been made. The EVMs cannot be tampered by any wi-fi or radio device.

It said the Commission also cuts off supply inside the strongrooms, where the EVMs are stored, both at the pre-poll and post-poll stages, not because the machines are affected by any electrical activity, but to ensure that there is no cause for any fire by short circuit. The Commission added that the prohibition on electronic devices and mobile phones in counting rooms and strong rooms is also a measure of abundant caution and not because electronic devices are capable of interfering with EVMs in any manner or form. ILNS/SNG/RJ

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