Restrict physical access to EVMs to Authorized Engineers, Supreme Court agrees to hear petition

Restrict physical access to EVMs to Authorized Engineers, Supreme Court agrees to hear petition

The Supreme Court, on Tuesday, agreed to hear the petition calling for directions to Election Commission of India to ensure that physical access to Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) is given only to authorized personnel.

The Supreme Court Bench of Justices AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan has issued notice in this petition filed by a Journalist Ashish Goyal through Advocate Devadatt Kamat.

The petition also seeks direction to be given to the Election Commission of India to publish a list of authorized personnel and engineers who can be given access to the EVMs for the First Level Checking (FLC).

It is submitted in the petition that there have been vital security breaches as regards the physical handling of EVMs in the recent past. This breach was by unauthorized persons and in contravention to the provisions of Manual on Electronic Voting Machine and VVPAT of the Election Commission of India.

In light of this, the petitioner has sought for the Court to direct the Election Commission to put safety measures in place to ensure that the “integrity of the EVMs” is not compromised in any way.

The petition informs the Court that by way of RTI replies obtained under the Right to Information Act, it was found that after Uttarakhand Assembly polls, besides authorized personnel from the Electronics Corporation of India Ltd. (ECIL) and Election Commission officials, several persons employed with a private entity were also given access to the EVMs.

This gives rise to apprehensions that these private persons may have been active members and workers of political parties contesting election at the time and raises serious concerns and apprehensions about the possibility of a security breach.”

The petition further contends that there are no security clearances or background checks provided for by the Election Commission. It is also submitted that the EC itself agrees that there is a possibility of EVMs being tampered with by physically altering the microchip in the Control Unit.

Another concern raised by the petitioner as regards security of the EVMs is that these machines are exported to different countries without the consent of the Government of India or the Election Commission.

It is submitted that the export of EVMs raises a serious security concern inasmuch as these countries are not within the security protocols or under the administrative control of Respondent No 1. There is no guarantee that the exported EVMs will not fall in the hands of unscrupulous individuals having vested interests in disturbing the democratic fabric of India.”

The petitioner, therefore, has sought following directions from the Court:

  • To ensure physical access to EVMs is restricted to authorized personnel and engineers only
  • The list of these authorized engineers is published and made available on the EC website before the scheduled date of First level checking.
  • The recommendations contained in Chapter 6 under the headings Design Change and Pre-poll, During-poll and post-poll precautions of the Report of the Expert Committee for the Technical Evaluation of EVMs dated September 2006 are implemented.
  • High Powered Committee headed by a retired judge of this the Supreme Court is set up to examine instances of such a breach since Assembly elections of Uttarakhand.
  • The exact number of EVMs manufactured and currently in use in India be published on the official websites of the Respondents.
  • To ensure EVMs are not exported without the prior consent of the EC and the Government of India.

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case in two weeks and has issued notice in this regard.

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