The Election Commission on Friday ruled out any possibility of the EVMs being tampered with in elections even as it announced that all future elections will be held with VVPAT slips to prevent any doubts while the AAP demanded ‘hackathon’, a view others were not apparently enthusiastic about at an all-party meeting convened to discuss worries over the machines.
At the end of the day-long meeting, Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi that the poll panel will hold a “challenge” for political parties to prove their allegations that the machines were or could be tampered with.
“All future elections will be mandatorily held with VVPAT (Voter-verifiable paper audit trail),” he said.
“The Commission will hold a challenge and offer an opportunity to political parties to demonstrate that the EVMs used in the recently-concluded assembly elections were tampered or the EVMs can be tampered with even under the laid down technical and administrative safeguards,” he added.
The meeting, which lasted over seven hours, was attended by representatives of seven political parties and 35 state parties.
Zaidi said the commission has taken note of all the views of the parties and assured that their concerns and apprehensions regarding EVMs would be duly considered and addressed through the challenge and further necessary action.
At the meeting, the ruling Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi, which had sought to demonstrate in the assembly earlier this week that EVMs can be manipulated to rig results in favour of party, made a demand that the commission should provide them the EVMs used in the recent assembly elections in five states so that they could prove their point.
“Provide us the EVMs, we will show that these can be hacked. We have shown it in the assembly,” Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said and demanded a hackathon.
Congress demanded “more steps” to ensure trustworthiness of EVMs, the CPI-M said that all EVMs should have paper trail and BJP said that the machines were reliable.
National Conference leader Devender Singh Rana said after the meeting that except for BJP, almost all parties raised concerns about reliability of EVMs.
Trinamool Vice President Mukul Roy said: “EVMs are not at all reliable and strongly demanded (that) the EC start using paper ballots in all future polls.”
Janata Dal-Secular and Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party also supported going back to the ballot papers.
At the meeting, the poll panel also made a presentation on EVMs explaining its secured design feature and highlighted “technical, administrative protocol and procedural safeguards that fortify the EVMs and VVPATs against any sort of manipulation or tampering”.
It also referred to queries raised by some political parties about the incidents of alleged EVM manipulation at Bhind and Dholpur during the recently concluded bye-elections and said that “baseless perceptions were generated about these incidents.”
The meeting also discussed electoral reforms like making bribery in elections a cognisable offence and disqualification on being chargesheeted for bribery in elections.
Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Nilotpal Basu said later that candidates should be disqualified only when the legal process is exhausted and the accused is convicted.
Amid concerns raised by the opposition, the Union Cabinet had last month cleared the Election Commission’s proposal to buy VVPAT machines for the EVMs to ensure transparency in the voting process.
The proposal involves getting 16,15,000 VVPAT units for EVMs at a cost of Rs 3,173.47 crore.
The EC also referred to queries raised by some political parties about the incidents of alleged EVM manipulation at Bhind and Dholpur during the recently concluded bye-elections, reiterating that baseless perceptions were generated about these incidents.