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Karnataka Speaker says will summon EC for answers as Congress alleges ‘19 lakh missing EVMs’

Congress sourced statistics from response to a 2018 RTI application by activist Manoranjan S. Roy, filed with PSU Bharat Electronics Limited, which manufactures EVMs.

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Bengaluru: Karnataka assembly Speaker Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri Tuesday said he would summon officials from the Election Commission (EC) of India to respond to suspicions raised by legislators about free and fair elections. 

During a special debate on electoral reforms in the assembly Tuesday, All India Congress Committee (AICC) Secretary in charge of Maharashtra and former minister H.K. Patil claimed over 19 lakh EVMs had gone “missing” between 2016 and 2018.

He sourced the statistics from a response to a 2018 RTI application filed by activist Manoranjan S. Roy with the PSU Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), which manufactures EVMs.

Referring to an RTI response received by activist Manoranjan S. Roy in 2018. Patil said 10.26 lakh EVMs had gone missing from Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), and 9.29 lakh from Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL), another firm manufacturing the voting machines

The number, Patil claimed, included 62,183 EVMs that BEL claimed to have dispatched to the EC in 2014 but had not been acknowledged by the poll regulator as ‘received’. 

On 27 March 2018, RTI activist Roy filed a PIL before the Bombay High Court based on the response he received from BEL on an RTI query regarding EVMs. 

He argued that more than 19 lakh EVMs were missing since they were not in the possession of the EC. The Election Commission, in its reply to news reports based on the RTI, had said the numbers were “conjectural and misleading”. 

In the assembly, Patil said the “number of missing EVMs is shocking”.

“RTI queries reveal that 9,64,270 EVMs by BEL, 9,29,992 by ECIL manufactured between 2016 and 2018 are missing. In 2014-2015, BEL claimed it supplied 62,183 EVMs but EC says it received none,” Patil told the House, raising concerns over free and fair elections. 

The EC, he said, has to respond to these charges. 

“How can anyone rule out the possibility of these missing EVMs being misused? If the EC does not respond to questions on what has happened to these EVMs, our suspicion on EVM malpractice will only grow stronger,” Patil added.


Also Read: From the factory to the voting booths: How EVMs work


Answers to be sought from EC 

Patil’s concerns found support from former speaker and Congress leader Ramesh Kumar and former IT minister Priyank Kharge. 

“I, as IT minister, wrote two letters to the EC to allow an ethical hackathon of EVMs by subject matter experts instead of political parties who do not possess the technical expertise to assess loopholes if any,” Kharge said. “It was turned down.” 

A copy of Kharge’s letter, dated 2 January 2018 and addressed to the then Chief Election Commissioner Achal Kumar Jyoti, is with ThePrint. 

While BJP MLAs, including Arvind Bellad, attempted to defend the EC, Congress leaders insisted that the regulator alone should respond to the allegations.

“Nobody other than the Election Commission can place an order for EVMs. They must have details of how many orders have been placed, how much money has been spent and how many have been received,” Ramesh Kumar said. 

“If BEL is on record claiming that it has generated such numbers of EVMs, then EC has to acknowledge that it has received that many numbers of EVMs. If they haven’t received, then it is a case of fraud. Whether those missing machines have been misused or not are a different matter altogether.”

Speaker Kageri drew an end to the discussion with an assurance that he would use his office to summon EC officials to the assembly to respond to the questions. 

(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)


Also Read: Days after Mamata attack on EVMs, EC issues full-page ad to defend ‘pride of Indian democracy’


 

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