The Election Commission has dismissed Aam Aadmi Party's request for verification of votes cast using electronic voting machines (EVM) in Punjab assembly elections.
In a letter sent to the party, the EC said: "allegation regarding tamper-ability of ECI-EVMs has already been considered by the commission and such allegations have been dismissed by the ECI and various High Courts unequivocally reiterating that given the effective technical and administrative safeguards, EVMs are not tamperable and integrity of electoral process is fully preserved."
In a strongly-worded letter, the EC also it is for the AAP "to introspect as to why your party could not perform as per your expectations and it is unfair on your part to attribute unsatisfactory poll performance of your party to the alleged tamperability of EVMS."
The election watchdog also said that the AAP is free to file an election petition in the state high court if it wants to verify votes cast in Punjab polls with data of paper trail.
The poll watchdog said after declaration of results only alternative available to verify the data of votes cast is to file an Election Petition before the High Court concerned.
Party chief and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal had urged the EC on Saturday to investigate cases of "faulty" EVMs and ascertain if their software can be tweaked "in favour of the BJP".
Kejriwal met chief election commissioner Nasim Zaidi and also demanded ballot papers be reintroduced in the country.
The Election Commission's claim that EVMs cannot be tampered with is completely "wrong", Kejriwal asserted. The CM's remark comes a day after some media reports suggested that Voter-verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machine was dispensing slips of BJP symbol only, irrespective of the button pressed, during a demonstration exercise in Bhind, Madhya Pradesh.
VVPAT is a machine which dispenses a slip with the symbol of the party for which a person has voted for.
Here are the key points cited by the Election Commission:
# Allegation regarding tamper-ability of ECI-EVMs has already been considered by the commission and such allegations have been dismissed by the ECI and various High Courts unequivocally reiterating that given the effective technical and administrative safeguards, EVMs are not temperable and integrity of electoral process is fully preserved.
# As regarding some foreign countries having stopped using EVMs, the commission has come across comparisons between ECI-EVM and EVMs used by foreign countries. Such comparisons are both misplaced and misguided. ECI EVMs are Stand-alone Machines. Therefore, ECI-EVMs cannot be compared with machines of other countries for the following reasons
# It is noteworthy that in your representation, you have yourself mentioned that “All political parties, irrespective of their ideology, have expressed satisfaction in the EVM as a mechanism to conduct elections, representations in the meeting in 2010 urged the Commission to consider introducing Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) for further transparency and verifiability in the polling process”. The commission is fully committed to deploy VVPATs for greater transparency in a phased manner given the financial constraints expressed by the Central Government and the production capacity of the two manufacturing companies.
# Hon’ble Supreme Court had never cast any aspersion or expressed any doubt that election process is interdicted/rigged by use of EVMs. The commission strongly objects to this wrong and imaginary extrapolation of Hon’ble Supreme Court’s order. This may please be noted as a responsible political party.
# The commission has put in place an elaborate technical and administrative system of safeguards to ensure error-free functioning of EVMs in elections. It is for your party to introspect as to why your party could not perform as per your expectations and it is unfair on the part of your party to attribute unsatisfactory poll performance of your party to the alleged tamperability of EVMs.
# As regards your demand for verification of votes cast in EVMs in Punjab State Legislative Assembly with paper trail data of VVPAT, your attention is invited to Rule 93 of the Conduct of Elections Rules 1961, which is reproduced below:-
“[93. Production and inspection of election papers.—(1) While in the custody of the district election officer or, as the case may be, the returning officer—
(a) the packets of unused ballot papers with counterfoils attached thereto;
(b) the packets of used ballot papers whether valid, tendered or rejected;
(c) the packets of the counterfoils of used ballot papers;
(cc) the printed paper slips sealed under the provisions of rule 57C.
(d) the packets of the marked copy of the electoral roll or, as the case may be, the list maintained under sub-section (1) or sub-section (2) of section 152; and [(dd) the packets containing registers of voters in form 17-A;]
(e) the packets of the declarations by electors and the attestation of their signatures; shall not be opened and their contents shall not be inspected by, or produced before, any person or authority except under the order of a competent court.
[1A) The control units sealed under the provisions of rule 57C and kept in the custody of the district election officer shall not be opened and shall not be inspected by, or produced before, any person or authority except under the orders of a competent court.]”
Hence, you are informed that after declaration of result only alternative available to verify the data of votes cast is to file an Election Petition before the competent court i.e. High Court concerned.
# You shall highly appreciate that every EVM, being used in the poll, is subject to pass a mock poll test on three occasions, as explained above, in the presence of agents of political parties/contesting candidates. Wherever, VVPATs are used, the electronic result of Control Unit is tallied with the Paper Count of VVPAT in the mock poll before starting actual poll. Moreover, no credible material has been brought to the knowledge of authorities during and at the time of above processes in Punjab elections to show alleged tampering in EVMs used in Punjab State. This activity was scrupulously followed in the State of Punjab during recently concluded assembly elections and nowhere any discrepancy was observed in result of mock poll.
(With inputs from agencies)