PIL on EVM irregularities: RTI activist to move Supreme Court against Bombay HC order

Upset at the Election Commission of India’s failure to file an affidavit before the Mumbai High Court, an RTI activist, Manoranjan S Roy, pleads for an urgent hearing by the Supreme Court

PIL on EVM irregularities: RTI activist to move Supreme Court against Bombay HC order

Ashutosh Sharma

Following the Mumbai High Court’s decision on March 8 to defer the hearing of a petition on Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) for virtually four weeks, Mumbai based RTI activist Manoranjan S Roy is planning to move the Supreme Court for an urgent hearing.

The petitioner had claimed large scale discrepancies in the manner in which EVMs and Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPATs) were procured, stored and deployed by the ECI and various State Election Commissions (SEC). The petition was based on various RTI replies he had received from the ECI and SECs.

The PIL had sought directions to the ECI, Maharashtra State Election Commission (M-SEC), Union Home Ministry and two public sector EVM manufacturing companies, Electronics Corporation of India Ltd (ECIL) and Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) for furnishing several details regarding the machines. It had also alleged serious contradictions in the figures of orders and supplies made by the two manufacturers.

The information collected by Roy purportedly revealed how the Bengaluru-based BEL had dispatched large quantities of electronic voting machines by “hand-delivery” and “by post” to various unidentified recipients.

Previously, the court had asked the ECI to provide within three weeks details regarding EVMs and procedures applied for maintaining their data. However, the directives were not listed on the court’s order dated February 15, Roy’s lawyers, advocates Shashikant Chaudhari and PranotPawar from Pawar& Company, had told the National Herald.

In his petition, Roy had sought the following information:

  • Does the Commission maintain a record of the machines purchased from the companies BEL and ECIL? Is there any number coding or series to the machines?
  • Whether the Commission have maintained the receipts of the machines which were purchased from these companies?
  • What is the mechanism or protocol followed by the Commission with respect to the purchase of the machines?
  • Whether the Commission has purchased few extra machines and if so, what happens to the extra machines?
  • What happens to the machines which turn to be faulty? Are they returned or discarded?
  • Whether the Commission has the records of the number of machines ordered or purchased and the count of machines that are used, discarded, stored or destroyed?

“The para-wise reply, dated March 6, filed by the ECI after several hearings doesn’t serve any purpose. It doesn’t provide the details that the court had earlier asked it to furnish. Moreover, the reply has not been provided in an affidavit,” Roy complained and added, “the Court didn’t even give any further directions to the ECI or even reprimand it for filing of incomplete information. Its too serious an issue to be treated in such a manner.”

In his March 8 order, Chief Justice NM Jamdar had maintained, “We have no doubt that the Election Commission would maintain proper record of the machines purchased including the record of the machines which are not in use or machines which are found to be defective.”

The petitioner, however said, “Between 2000-2014, almost 40 lakh machines of model No. 1, 2 and 3 were manufactured. But it’s not clear as to how many machines have been allocated to which state and how many of them have been destroyed. Again, it is not clear as to which model of the machine would be used during the forthcoming elections. Also, there is huge difference between the total number of EVMs and the VVPATs.”

“The Election Commission has declared the dates for general elections without allaying the fears regarding misuse of the machines, during the pendency of the case,” he added.

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Published: 15 Mar 2019, 8:44 AM