19 lakh ‘missing’ EVMs: Congress MLA seeks inquiry by Supreme Court judge
The ECI claimed to have not received 9,64,270 EVMs by BEL and 9,29,992 EVMs that ECIL confirms to have delivered. The mystery has remained unresolved since 2018
Senior Congress legislator H.K. Patil on Sunday sought an independent inquiry by a Supreme Court judge in the case of 19 lakh “missing” electronic voting machines (EVMs).
The case of the “missing” EVMs had come to light after RTI replies by the machines’ manufacturer and the Election Commission of India (ECI) showed huge discrepancy in the data.
Leading a delegation of Congress legislators, Patil met Karnataka Legislative Assembly Speaker Vishveshwar Hegde Kageri in Bengaluru on Sunday and submitted a 2,750 pages document on the Election Commission of India (ECI) replies to RTI queries and issues raised in the courts.
Later, he addressed a press conference in Bengaluru and said, “The Centre should order a fair and independent inquiry by a sitting judge of the Supreme Court and summons should be issued to the ECI to appear before the Karnataka Legislative Assembly to explain the allegations against it.”
In the documents released to the media by Patil, the ECI has admitted that in the span of 15 years it has not received 9,64,270 EVMs that Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) states to have delivered. Similarly, the ECI has also not received 9,29,992 machines that the Electronics Corporation of India Ltd (ECIL) confirms to have delivered. Besides, the BEL claimed it had supplied 62,183 EVMs in 2014-2015, which have not been received.
Patil had raised the issue during a special debate in the Assembly on electoral reforms in March 2022 that 19 lakh EVMs have gone “missing” since a couple of years. The Speaker had assured Patil that he would seek an explanation from the ECI and wanted the latter to furnish documents to substantiate his claims.
During the debate Patil had quoted from the RTI reply given by Bharat Electronics Limited, one of the manufacturers of EVMs, that 9,64,270 machines had gone missing and were not returned. Similarly, 9,29,992 EVMs manufactured by the Electronics Corporation of India (ECIL) had also met with the same fate.
“There is total ambiguity in respect of the procedure adopted for movement of EVMs as well as destruction of old and unserviceable EVMs. The unreliable process and absence of clear accountability of EVMs could have a telling effect on the integrity of the process of elections. An apex election body of the nation custodian for free and fair elections took 12 long years to frame rules on recommendations of an expert committee constituted to recommend on what should be done with EVMS of 1989-1990 batch,” Patil said.
Patil claimed the rules were clandestinely fabricated just to answer the RTI applications that unserviceable and old EVMs are believed to have been destroyed. The ECI was advised by the manufacturers to dispose of EVMs after shelf life of 15 years and machines older than 15 years may not be used for elections.
Even as the ECI did not take action on the panel's recommendations, it suddenly framed rules in July 2018 according to information furnished in the RTI. The ECI said it had destroyed EVMs of 1989 batch and prior to 2006 batch were under the process of being destroyed. “I wonder under what guidelines the 1989 and prior to 2006 EVMs were disposed of as the guidelines were framed in 2018 as per the ECI reply to the RTI in 2017?” Patil asked.
Even more glaring was that a chapter on the process for destroying the EVMs was missing in the manual published in 2021 and instead a procedure on the “lost and found” EVMs inserted clearing accepting the fact that they have gone missing, Patil said.