EC Denies Missing EVMs, Says Reports Are Misleading
Amidst the hue and cry surrounding the tampering of (EVMs) and the question surrounding its authenticity, a news report claimed that 20 lakh voting machines have gone missing. The Election commission on Thursday denied the media reports that 20 lakh EVMs had gone missing in a span of 25 years saying that the reports were “inaccurate and based on specious misinterpretation.”
In response to the media reports that stated 20 lakh EVMs were missing, The Election Commission refuted the claims made and issued a letter to the media sources.
In a letter to Frontline and television channel TV9 Bharatvarsh, poll panel’s spokesperson Sheyphali Sharan said, “It is noticed that this news story has selectively quoted some information obtained by an individual through RTI application from multiple public authorities and a PIL filed in the Bombay High Court.”
“News story carried only partial and one-sided information, which is inaccurate and based on specious misinterpretation of the facts in the matter, thereby creating unwarranted doubts in the minds of general public.”
The editors of Frontline and TV9 Bharatvarsh have been informed due details with respect to misleading stories carried in their magazine/Channel. Editor Frontline has acknowledged that due rejoinder shall be published. TV9channel has deleted the story from their telecast pic.twitter.com/AwzZlFeRGA
— Sheyphali Sharan (@SpokespersonECI) May 9, 2019
She also added that the allegations of mismatch in order and supply of the voting machines and the presumption that “the absence of proper system and infrastructure could lead to misplacement of EVMs along with misappropriation of funds” were conjectures.
The Editor of Frontline acknowledged the letter and said that the due rejoinder shall be published. TV9channel on the other hand, has deleted the story from their telecast.
This comes at a time when the credibility and the authenticity of the Electronic Voting Machines have been questioned multiple times during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections by various opposition leaders. Popular leaders include Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal of the Aam Aadmi Party and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu of the Telugu Desam Party. Recently, 21 opposition leaders jointly appealed to the apex court seeking a review of its April 8th order that directed the Election Commission (EC) to increase random matching of VVPAT slips with the EVMs to at least five polling booths per assembly segment. The order came in response to the appeal of 21 opposition leaders’ that Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trails (VVPAT) slips of 50% EVMs be matched. Their appeal was dismissed and termed ‘ not feasible’ due to infrastructural difficulties and the huge requirement of manpower it would entail.
What did the Report say about the Missing EVMs?
In an revealtory article published by The Frontline, an RTI finding based on a Public Interest Petition (PIL) filed in the Bombay high Court provides starling numbers about EVMs that claimed to have been supplied by Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) and Electronics Corporation of India Ltd (ECIL), but never reached the ECI.
The PIL filed on March 27, 2018, by Manoranjan Roy, a right to information (RTI) activist in Mumbai was about the processes involved in the procurement, storage and deployment of EVMs and VVPATs by the ECI and State Election Commissions (SECs).
Below are some of the startling figures from the RTI findings:
The shortfall, recorded in the chart below, based on the year-wise break-up of the order-supply chart of BEL. The data was arrived at by comparing the BEL’s supply and the ECI’s acknowledgment of the machines.
*Numbers in negative indicate an excess of Machines received by ECI which BEL did not supply that year.
Frontline reported that the disparity can also be seen with regard to the payment received by BEL and the amount accorded by the ECI. Transactions between the ECI and BEL for the 10-year period from 2006-07 to 2016-17 show that the ECI’s “actual expenditure” on EVMs is Rs.536 crores. However, BEL’s RTI reply dated September 20, 2017, claims it received a payment of Rs.652 crores from the ECI for the same period. That is an excess payment of Rs.116.55 crore.
When the ECI was asked about the missing machines in an RTI query on July 21, 2017, it is said to have replied that it had not sold any EVMs as scrap.The EVMs procured in 1989-90 were said to have been destroyed by the manufacturers themselves. However, the ECI said that the process of destroying old or outdated or irreparable EVMs was still under consideration for the machines between 2000 and 2005 .
Based on the data he received from the RTI findings, the many questions that Roy posed still remain unanswered. The PIL has been shuttled across in the Bombay high court since September 19, 2018 with no clarity to the petitioner. Now, Roy’s lawyers have decided to appeal to the Supreme Court in a special leave petition which the Apex court is yet to take up.
EVMs, VVPATs found in Bihar hotel
In another case on Monday the 6th of May, two units of EVMs and VVPATs were recovered from a hotel in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur.
Sector magistrate Avdesh Kumar invited trouble for himself when he got down from his car at a hotel with the voting equipment, after the officer’s driver excused himself to cast his vote at a nearby polling booth.
Originally he was given the responsibility of 4 EVMs in Muzaffarpur which were backup machines that would replace any machine that malfunctioned in the area in the 5th phase of Lok Sabha Elections on Monday.
He was travelling from a polling booth in Muzaffarpur and was left with 2 balloting units, 1 control unit and 2 VVPATs when he got down from the car at the hotel.
The news of a polling officer carrying voting machines reached party agents at the booth and immediately incited alarm. The local Sub-Divisional Officer (SDO), Kundan Kumar soon reached the venue and seized the EVMs and VVPATs.
A show cause notice has been issued to the officer concerned and a departmental investigation is now pending against him.
Also Read: The Curious Case Of Missing EVMs