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EVM hacking allegations: Politically malicious or should they be investigated?

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The Election Commission of India has asked the Delhi Police to file an FIR against US based cyber expert Syed Shuja, who alleged that every Indian election since 2014, regardless of its outcome, had been rigged by tampering with electronic voting machines (EVMs). Electronic Corporation of India (ECIL), the company that he claimed to work for, clarified that he was never an employee at the organisation.

ThePrint asks: EVM hacking allegations: Politically malicious or should they be investigated?

The EVM allegations have now become a scapegoat and political ‘jumla’

SK Mendiratta
Former Legal Advisor, ECI

The allegations about hackability of EVMs are a mere political gimmick, which are now being routinely raised on the eve of every election. It has now become an oft repeated political ‘jumla’ and a scapegoat. High Courts in Bombay, Karnataka, Kerala, Madras, Guwahati have already held that Indian EVMs are tamper-proof and cannot be manipulated. Karnataka H C has even hailed these machines as ‘national pride’. Even Supreme Court dismissed allegations as unsubstantiated and has refused to direct any rollback to the old ballot paper system.

Not a single election has been declared void by any court on the ground of tampering since the first EVMs were used in 1982-83.

Now that VVPAT units are attached to EVMs since 2018, what is the basis of allegations? Why don’t those doubting Thomas-es come and demonstrate before the nation that this is how EVMs of ECI can be hacked? You produce some fake machine using your own technology and make some unsubstantiated/ unfounded claims just to confuse voters.

The ECI in its booklet has explained the strict technological and administrative safeguards use in the production and use of EVMs. The EVM system is a path-breaking reform in our electoral process and the ECI’s ‘lead’ is now being followed by many democracies around the globe.

There were serious maladies that the old paper system suffered, like booth capturing, long delays in the counting of votes, rejection of large numbers. Not to mention the printing of crores and crores of ballot papers or which many a forests got denuded.

VVPAT should set at rest this EVM debate

Sandeep Shastri
National co-ordinator, Lokniti Network

Questioning the manipulation of EVMs has happened in three different contexts. Firstly, when a party loses an election, the mal-functioning of the EVMs are blamed, thus hoping to deflect attention away from the real factors contributing to the rout. Secondly, in those critical days between voting and counting, nervous parties often take out an `insurance policy` to explain a possible defeat (Congress leaders expressing apprehensions on manipulation of EVMs after the conclusion of voting in the Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections). Lastly, whenever the country prepares for an election, the debate on the scope for `hacking` the EVMs gains stridency.

Experts from the relevant domain have time and again asserted and quite convincingly argued why the `EVM manipulation bogie` is flawed. The Election Commission too has provided proof of the steps they have taken to ensure that EVMs reflect the actual voting as registered by the voters. Ever since EVMs have been introduced, parties in power have been voted out at a regular frequency. If EVMs could be manipulated, the same would not have happened. It may also be important to note that for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, there will be Voter-Verifiable- Paper Audit Trails (VVPAT) for each vote cast. This should set at rest the debate on the EVMs and permit a focus on the `real` issues that citizens would like the political parties to focus on.

Doubts over EVMs are a brazen effort to fuel fear-mongering

Ruhi Tewari
Associate editor, ThePrint

There is an idiom, trite as it might be, that a bad workman blames his tools. This is precisely the sentiment that has come to define the furore over EVMs in India.

Political parties who are unable to come out on top at the hustings take to EVM bashing. The BJP, actively led by L K Advani, started the murmurs when Congress ruled at the centre, but began defending EVMs once its good electoral run started. The Congress, meanwhile, latched on to this as soon as its electoral fortunes declined with other opposition parties joining in conveniently whenever they lost elections.

The latest claims by a self-proclaimed ‘cyber expert’ are ludicrous, maleficent and harmful to our electoral and democratic fabric. Sure, everybody has a right to question. But to allege almost no election has been fair in recent times, with no real proof or basis, is dangerous and designed to make voters lose faith in the system.

Most importantly, the timing is telling. Barely months before the Lok Sabha polls, it seems like a brazen effort to indulge in some fear-mongering, while trying to send the message that parties in India today win elections not because of the value of the voters’ votes, but because of someone’s ability to hack a machine.

By Fatima Khan, journalist at ThePrint. You can follow her on twitter @khanthefatima.

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  1. Problem arises only because of the credibility gap of the Prime Minister and the BJP. The feeling is that they can do anything to win elections. Remember what the PM said about Manmohan Singh involved in a conspiracy with Pakistan. Then the manufacturing of majority by unethical means and claiming them as cleverness. Promising anything without a thought whether it can be fulfilled. In this cloudy atmosphere people tend to believe the worst.

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