April 6th, 2017
Right after the assembly election results of five crucial states were declared last month, several opposition parties, including the Congress, had alleged that there were major problems with the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) which facilitated a landslide victory for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The allegation had sparked a new debate questioning the authenticity of EVMs.
Even the general mass are now raising their voice against the cluttered vote counting procedure. More than 600 people from Wakola area in Mumbai have registered affidavit claiming that they had voted for their favourite independent candidate in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections, but it has been found that the candidate ended up getting much lesser votes that were given to him. They have claimed of vote theft and the submitted the affidavit to Bombay High Court.
The case has been raised from Ward No 88 in Wakola area of Mumbai. In the ward, 13 candidates were in the electoral battle, one of whom was an Independent candidate Nilotpal Mrinal. He bagged only 375 votes. Although the seat was won by the Shiv Sena’s account, but now 600 people of the area have filed an affidavit with the Bombay High Court with the photocopies of their voter ID.
The petitioner Tahir Shaikh told NDTV, “I was sitting there on the counting day. When I voted, I was very disappointed, then we decided to meet with the people of the area and decided that something was to be done so we gave the PIL.”
After losing the election, Mrinal has sought official information from the BMC, so that he can get a clarity into the matter. According to NDTV, Nilotpal said, “If I got 50-60 votes from every booth, then maybe it would have been difficult to know. But after the counting, I found that I got 4-5 votes from which more than twice as many people had affirmed me that they voted for me. The voters want to know how did this happen?”
According to the petitioner’s lawyer, Shravan Giri said, the petition has been filed. The date of hearing can come on any day. The petitioners want the court to investigate where the votes of people went?
The candidate claims that even though 600 people have given an affidavit, the number of those who voted for him is more than that. The petitioners, however, do not want to contest elections again even when the decision comes into effect. On the other hand, people complain that they could not find a councillor of their choice. The public has a petition; the court has to decide the decision.
The very foundation of democracy rests on principles of free and fair elections and equal voting rights. All these principles would only be able to fall into place if the vote gathering process is transparent enough for the citizens to believe in it.
The questions of rigging or tampering did not arise just because of parties winning or losing an unexpected number of seats, but also because many western countries in the recent years are doubting the integrity of EVMs and bringing back the old-fashioned ballot system. The EVMs are portable and can easily count votes. However, there have been numerous instances across the world where hacking and other forms of tampering have been reported.
The Supreme Court in 2013 had asked the Election Commission to introduce in a phased manner the paper trail in Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, saying “it is an indispensable requirement of free, fair and transparent” polls which will restore the confidence of the voters. The apex court had directed the centre to provide financial assistance to the poll panel for the introduction of the Vote Verifier Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) system with the EVMs.
Almost every other political parties have criticised EVMs but such remarks usually come to surface when they lose elections. The EC should come up with a concrete solution so that it can restore everyone’s faith in the election procedure.