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Analysis Of Sansad TV Discussion: ”EVM Movement”

Analysis Of Sansad TV Discussion: ”EVM Movement”

Relevance

‘GS 2: Elections”

Context

  • Ahead of the counting of votes for the Assembly elections in five states, Samajwadi Party Workers in Uttar Pradesh claimed that they intercepted a truck carrying EVMs in Varanasi.
  • They also claimed that vehicles transporting ballots were intercepted in at least three districts.
  • Though the state chief electoral officer (CEO) insisted that the EVMs used in polling are sealed and guarded and are being observed through 24×7 monitoring.

What is an EVM and can it be hacked?

  • An EVM consists of two units – a ballot unit which is the machine a voter uses to cast their vote by pressing on the symbols for respective parties.
  • The other is the control unit which is operated by the election officer present in each polling booth. Meaning each polling has two EVM units and can be used to cast up to 2,000 votes.
  • In 1989, Bharat Electronics Limited and Electronics Corporation of India Limited were commissioned by the EC to develop these machines.
  • In order to ensure the safety of EVM and VVPATs during transportation and ensure against the loss or theft of EVMs, the EC uses several measures like tracking software, GPS devices in vehicles and mandatory video recording of the entire process.

Analysis Of Sansad TV Discussion: "EVM Movement"_40.1

How Election Commission Handled EVM Controversy Earlier?

  • Following the accusations by several parties in 2019, the Election Commission which is charged with safeguarding electoral practices in the country invited all parties to prove their claims.
  • However, no political party came forth to participate in the EVM challenge.
  • Only CPI(M) and NCP came forward to show interest in the event but backed out in the last hour claiming they only wanted to learn the process.
  • In an affidavit to the Supreme court which was hearing cases of EVM malfunctioning made by Congress and BSP in Uttar Pradesh in August, the EC asked political parties to not cry foul over EVMs when they skipped EC’s challenge.
  • Experts, however, agree that while it may be possible to wirelessly hack an EVM, it may take a long time and may require close proximity to the units.

Procedure Followed During the Movement of EVMs

  • As per the Election Commission, only “authorized engineers of the manufacturers can conduct the First Level Checking (FLC) of EVMs and VVPATs under control of the District Election Officer and direct supervision of Deputy DEO in the presence of representatives of political parties under videography.”
  • The ECI has in place ground rules for storage, transportation, testing and use of EVMs.
  • The storage and transfer of EVMs take place in many stages.
  • It is reiterated that under no circumstances any person will take any EVM, whether polled EVMs or reserve EVMs in the custody of sector officers, to his home or any private place.
  • All polled EVMs and all reserve EVMs after the poll shall be under cover of armed police at all times.
  • Reserve EVMs should also be returned at the same time when the polled EVMs are returned at the receipt centre.
  • Reserve EVMs shall not be kept in the strong room meant for polled EVMs.They shall be kept in another strong room meant for keeping reserve EVMs.

Analysis Of Sansad TV Discussion: "EVM Movement"_50.1

  • It must be ensured that all reserve EVMs are also deposited in the strong room meant for reserve EVMs at the same time when the polled EVMs are deposited in the strong room meant for polled EVMs.
  • The EVM warehouses located at the district headquarters are under double lock, manned by two officers.
  • The DEO has all the keys to the first lock while the Deputy DEO has all the keys for the second.
  • EVM Warehouses outside of district headquarters follow a similar pattern and are manned by two officers.
  • The officer in charge of the first set of keys may not be lower than the District collector or SDM rank while the officer in charge of the second set may not be below ‘tehsildar’ rank.
  • At the time of counting, assembly-constituency wise EVMs are allocated and then transported to assembly-constituency wise strong rooms. These are also under a double lock system managed by Returning Officer and Assistant Returning Officer.
  • After the counting is over, the EVMs are kept in the assembly-constituency wise strong rooms under double lock until the end of the election petition period. The keys to these strong rooms are with DEO and Deputy DEO. The strong rooms or warehouses can only be opened in the presence of these officers and require previous documentation and approval from requisite authorities.

What is the Legal Provision

According to section 58 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, fresh elections need to be held if any “ballot box used at a polling booth is unlawfully taken out of the custody of the presiding officer or the returning officer, or is accidentally or intentionally destroyed or lost, or is damaged or tampered with, to such an extent, that the result of the poll at that polling station or place cannot be ascertained; or 2[(aa) any voting machine develops a mechanical failure during the course of the recording of votes, or if any such error or irregularly in the procedure as is likely to vitiate the poll is committed at a polling station or at a place fixed for the poll”.

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