KOLKATA: The Citizen’s Commission on Elections (CCE), a civil society initiative headed by former Supreme Court Judge Madan B Lokur and first chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, demanded that the Election Commission of India (ECI) must optimise the tallying of voter-verified paper audit trails (VVPATs) with the votes registered in the electronic voting machines (EVMs) in the ensuing Assembly polls in five states including Bengal.
While addressing a media conference and publishing a report prepared by the CCE on technical and other inadequacies of the EVMs, Jawhar Sircar, a former Chief Election Officer, said the ECI should tally the VVPATs with the votes in EVMs as much as possible. “There is no proof that EVMs cannot be tampered with. Hence, it is highly desirable that the VVPATs and EVM votes are tallied,” said Sircar on behalf of the CCE, the initiative comprising former Supreme Court Judges, civil servants, journalists, economists, professors and civil society activists. Sircar also referred to the examples in Madhya Pradesh elections where the EVMs and VVPATs could not be tallied at several booths.
“We have seen in Madhya Pradesh during the 2019 polls that the number of votes cast and the number of votes finally recorded in the EVM didn’t match. This happened in over 200 booths. The apex court had ruled that votes of five EVMs in every Assembly segment should be tallied with VVPATs to ensure transparency. In an Assembly constituency, which comprises hundreds of booths, counting merely tallying just five EVMs would not reflect the whole picture,” said Sircar. Sircar was the CEO in Bengal in 1999 when EVMs were first introduced in the country.
“When the EVM was introduced, we were not equipped with cellphones. There have been remarkable technological developments in all segments but there has been little technical upgradation in the EVMs since then,” he pointed out. The CCE has prepared a detailed report where it has discussed “how EVMs can be tampered with, after its IIT technologists consulted best universities in the West”.
Sircar said the report would be shared with the ECI. Subhashis Banerjee, a professor of Computer Science in IIT Delhi said the EVMs aren’t safeguarded from ‘side channel attacks’, which meant that the machines can be hacked through devices from a remote area. A few days earlier, another former CEO SY Quraishi had spoken in favour of 100 per cent VVPAT counting.