The Election Commission (EC) has refuted the allegations of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Congress over the controversy surrounding EVMs and claimed that no such machines have been moved from Uttar Pradesh for the purpose of bye-elections in Madhya Pradesh.
Earlier, AAP chief Kejriwal once again demanded that the upcoming civic polls in the capital must be conducted using paper ballots. He wrote to the EC claiming that "our experts" will prove that the voting machines can be tampered with. "I challenge the ECI to give us 72 hours to prove it," he said in the note.
In a press statement today, the EC called the allegations of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Congress as "baseless" and clarified that VVPAT machines are not required by the law to be retained in strong room for the purpose of election petition and are available for use in any other election.
However, in the ongoing by-elections only VVPAT machines, which were kept in reserve and not used during the actual poll, have been redeployed.
WHAT THE EC STATEMENT SAID
The EC statement said, "Certain baseless observations and allegations have been made by a leader of a political party today in a press conference regarding the use of EVMs. It has been alleged that EVMs as per law cannot be taken out for 45 days from the date of declaration of results but still EVMs for the by-polls in the Madhya Pradesh were taken out and shifted from Uttar Pradesh where the results have been declared on March 11, 2017 and hence the 45 days period is still not over."
Clarifying the legal position, EC said the EVMs comprising the Control Unit (CU) and Ballot Unit (BU) used in any election are kept in a strong room after declaration of results and are not accessed by anyone till the period of filing of election petition is over.
The election petition has to be filed within 45 days.
However, in case of VVPAT machines, the printed paper slips have to be retrieved at the time of counting and sealed in a paper envelope and only these sealed paper slips have to be kept inside the strong room along with the EVMs.
It further said, "The VVPAT machines are not required by the law to be retained in strong room for the purpose of election petition and are available for use in any other election. However, in the on-going bye-polls only VVPAT machines which were kept in reserve and not used during the actual poll, have been redeployed."
"Aspersions have also been cast on EC that EVMs from Uttar Pradesh were moved to Bhind, Madhya Pradesh. The Commission would like to point out that these allegations are completely baseless and made without verifying the facts. No EVMs have been moved from Uttar Pradesh for the purpose of bye-polls in Madhya Pradesh," it said.
The statement claimed that required number of VVPAT machines was moved from different states for use in bye-polls as per the existing policy of EC. "This is because 53,500 VVPAT machines, available with the Commission, were deployed during the recently concluded polls in five states - Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur.
"The Commission would like to clarify that in any election a certain percentage of EVMs and VVPAT machines are kept in reserve so that EVMs and VVPAT machines deployed on the poll day can be replaced, if required.
The EVMs and VVPATs kept in reserve also go through the stringent protocol of first level checking, randomisation and loading of symbols during the candidates setting in the presence of representatives of candidates and political parties. Hence, the VVPATs that were sent to Bhind had the previous symbols loaded from Uttar Pradesh," it said.
EC said, "This is a standard protocol and there was nothing amiss in this. According to standard protocol, the old symbols are erased only during first level checking before the next poll. However, it was not done when the demonstration was made on March 31, 2017 at Bhind. As per the Commission's instructions, any training or demonstration is commenced only after completing the first level checking which was missed out at Bhind for which Commission has replaced the District Election Officer," and added that the report of special officer deputed to inquire into allegations of multiple printing of paper slips of a particular political party at Ater (Bhind) is awaited and would be made public.