Election Commission asks MP govt to take action against officials involved in controversial EVM demo in Bhind

Representational image. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The recommedation comes three months after the controversial incident

ANUBHUTI VISHNOI

New Delhi: Three months after an EVM-VVPAT demonstration in Bhind in Madhya Pradesh caused a political storm with allegations that the machines were allowing the casting votes only in favour of the BJP’s symbol, the Election Commission of India has directed the state government to initiate disciplinary proceedings against the concerned District Election Officer and the Returning Officer for gross negligence.

The Election Commission took the decision to have disciplinary proceedings initiated against the two officers last week, Chief Election Commissioner Dr Nasim Zaidi confirmed to ThePrint.

The two officials who were involved in the EVM-VVPAT demonstration held in Ater in Bhind on March 31, 2017, will be face ‘disciplinary proceedings on minor penlaties’ for gross negligence of the standard operating procedure prescribed for EVM demonstration.

“Yes, we have recommended it to the state government. We  had asked for explanation on the role of the District Electoral Office and the returning Officer. The Commission has only last week taken a decision and recommended to the state government that they should take disciplinary proceedings on minor penalties against district election officer and returning officer,” Dr Zaidi said.

The State’s Chief Electoral Officer may also face action over certain comments she reportedly made in which she allegedly warned journalists against reporting on the incident.

Following an inquiry committee report, the election commission has established that there was gross negligence on the part of the officials as they had failed to erase the memory/pre-loaded data on the VVPAT and reload it with symbols and data of dummy candidates before a demonstration as per protocol. The demonstration was being conducted ahead of the by-polls in the state.

This resulted in a major controversy with doubts being cast on the credibility of the EVM-VVPAT system and major political parties taking up the matter. What worsened things was that this incident came soon after the results of five state assembly elections and amid allegations by a number of political parties that the EVM was being tampered to favour certain political parties.

The Election Commission has repeatedly denied these allegations and even held an EVM tampering challenge contest recently to lay such doubts to rest.

The commission had, following the Bhind incident, set up a special inquiry team led by Bhanwar Lal, the Chief Electoral Officer of Andhra Pradesh, to probe all aspects of the incident and the various allegations raised.

The inquiry team had concluded that the accuracy of the functioning of the EVMs and VVPATs including the said EVM/VVPAT is beyond doubt. It had recommended that the Commission might like to fix responsibility on the District Election Officer and Returning Officer for the lapses.

The team had also advised that the Commission should strongly underline that there should be no room for casualness in handling the electoral matters, least of all, such unwarranted remarks, as the sanctity of electoral process forms the foundation of India’s democracy.

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