Courts have rejected petitions citing technological soundness of EVM: ECI

Courts have rejected petitions citing technological soundness of EVM: ECI

New Delhi, March 16: Election Commission of India claimed that there were large number of cases filed before the High Courts and Supreme Court but all these were rejected on all aspects of the technological soundness and the administrative measures involved in the use of EVMs at elections in India, have held that the EVMs in India are credible, reliable and totally tamperproof.

In a statement issued ECI has highlighted that The issue of possible tampering of EVM has been raised before various High Courts since 2001. They are Madras High Court-2001, Delhi High Court-2004, Karnataka High Court- 2004, Kerala High Court-2002 and Bombay High Court (Nagpur Bench)-2004. In some of these cases, even Supreme Court has dismissed appeals filed by some petitioners against High Court orders.

The Karnataka High Court held that “This invention is undoubtedly a great achievement in the electronic and computer technology and a national pride”.   Both the Karnataka High Court and the Madras High Court observed that use of EVMs in election has several advantages over the system of ballot paper/ballot box election. The Madras High Court also categorically ruled out any question of tampering of the EVMs.  The following observations made by the Madras High Court may be taken note of.

“There is also no question of introducing any virus or bugs for the reason that the EVMs cannot be compared to personal computers.  The programming in computers, as suggested, has no bearing with the EVMs.  The computer would have inherent limitations having connections through Internet and by their very design, they may allow the alteration of the programme but the EVMs are independent units and the programme in EVM is entirely a different system.”

In one of the cases, the High Court of Kerala in its order dated 6.2.2002 had recorded its appreciation on the efficiency of the mechanism.  The judgment of the Kerala High Court in the said Election Petition was upheld by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Civil Appeal (AIR 2003 SC 2271).

It is admitted before various courts that the data or technique brought in use in EVM in India were not subject to piracy as nobody knows anything about the contents of any type or has any unauthorized or free access to EVM. Thereafter, the controversy was raised by political parties again after 2009 General Elections to House of People stating that EVMs were not fool proof and provide scope for manipulation. However, no specific allegation was raised nor could they prove before any court of law.

Some activists approached Supreme Court in 2009 which advised them to go to ECI. It was then these activists opened dialogue and ECI threw open challenge to anyone to demonstrate how machine owned by ECI can be tempered. However, in spite of opportunities given by ECI, machines opened and internal components shown, no one could demonstrate any tempering with the machine in ECI HQ. There proceedings were videographed.

In an extraordinary measure, the Commission invited those who had expressed reservations about the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) to come and demonstrate the points made in their allegations from 3rd to 8th August 2009. Those invited included political parties, petitioners before various courts and some individuals who had been writing to the Commission on this issue. One hundred EVMs brought from ten states namely, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh, were kept at the Commission’s office in readiness for scrutiny and for any application to establish its alleged fallibility.

The EVMs were offered for such demonstration in the presence of a technical experts group as well as engineers representing the EVM manufacturers, BEL and ECIL. The outcome of this exercise is that none of the persons, who were given the opportunity, could actually demonstrate any tamper ability of the ECI-EVMs. They either failed or chose not to demonstrate.

Some activists then showed on TV channel a ‘machine’ which they claimed can be manipulated. ECI countered allegation that the ‘machine’ was stolen from EVM warehouse in Mumbai, subjected to changes by activists and thus it was no longer the ‘machine’ used by ECI.

In 2010, all political parties except a few from Assam and Tamil Nadu in a meeting convened by ECI expressed satisfaction about the functioning of EVMs. At this stage, idea of VVPAT was moved for further exploration.

In 2009, in a case before Delhi High Court, all earlier allegations about EVM temperabilities were raised. However, Delhi High Court satisfied with detailed reply of ECI why EVM cannot be rigged and about ECI efforts on developing VVPAT decided and disposed of the case in 2012 that VVPAT may be developed early in consultation with political parties.

Background of EVM

With a view to overcome certain problems associated with use of ballot papers and taking advantage of development of technology so that voters cast their votes correctly without any resultant ambiguity and removing the possibilities of invalid votes totally, the Commission in December, 1977 mooted the idea of EVM. The law was amended by the Parliament in December, 1988 and a new section 61A was inserted in the Representation of the People Act, 1951 empowering the Commission to use voting machines. The amended provision came into force w.e.f.  15th March, 1989.

Central Government appointed the Electoral Reforms Committee in January, 1990 consisting of representative of several recognized National and State Parties. The Electoral Reforms Committee further constituted a technical Expert Committee for the evaluation of the electronic voting machines.  The Committee came to conclusion that the electronic voting machine is a secure system.  The expert committee, therefore, unanimously recommended in April, 1990 the use of the electronic voting machines without further loss of time.

Since 2000, EVMs have been used in 107 General Elections to State Legislative Assemblies and 3 General Elections to Lok Sabha held in 2004, 2009 & 2014.

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