The Bombay High Court has asked the Election Commission of India (ECI) to provide within three weeks details regarding Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and procedures applied for maintaining their data.
The directive came in response to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking 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).
The petitioner, activist Manoranjan S Roy, on the basis of RTI replies, has alleged large scale discrepancies in the manner in which a large number of EVMs and Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPATs) are ordered by the ECI and various SECs.
Also, he has claimed huge 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.
The ECI counsel Rajgopalacharya reportedly appeared in court last week for the first time after the PIL was filed in March 2018.
Talking to the National Herald, Roy’s lawyers, advocates Shashikant Chaudhari and Pranot Pawar from Pawar & Company said: “The bench comprising Chief Justice NH Patil and Justice NM Jamdar has asked for supply of details regarding number of machines ordered, name of the manufacturing companies, when the deliveries were made, whether those machines were used in elections, after elections what happened to those machines, whether they were reused, returned to manufacturer or destroyed and what is the procedure of maintaining data of EVMs.”
“The court has also demanded the details of machines as per their serial numbers,” he further said.
Even though the directives have not been listed on the court’s order dated February 15, 2019, Pawar said, he will point it out to the court in case the respondents don’t comply on the next hearing, March 8, 2019.
While the Lok Sabha polls are around the corner, Roy in his plea has also demanded setting up of a suitable probe panel and banning EVMs till the logical outcome of the probe.
“Several SECs don’t conduct audit of the machines. They don’t have any records of the EVMs which were actually used for elections, number of defective or defunct machines, why and which different models were deployed, who has approved these different models, the type of software-hardware used,” Roy told the National Herald, and went on to add, “the SECs also lack information whether the software are hack-proof, whether the software is dedicated (exclusive) or purchased from the markets.”
“It leaves scope for misuse of the machines. It also involves unexplained financial discrepancies running into thousands of crores of rupees,” he stressed, adding that “it’s not good for the health of Indian democracy.”