DMK approaches Madras HC to restrain EC from using old EVMs

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(Eds: Adding details) Chennai, Mar 24 (PTI) The DMK on Wednesday moved the Madras High Court with a plea to restrain the Election Commission from using electronic voting machines (EVMs) that were beyond the expiry period of 15 years, in the April 6 Tamil Nadu Assembly polls.

The other prayers of the DMK, represented by its Organisation Secretary R S Bharathi, were to provide CCTV live coverage/web-stream during voting in all the polling booths and voting centres, to instal jammers at the strong rooms where EVMs are stored and at the counting centres.

However, the court said it does not appear that EVMs can be tampered with without touching them.

The Opposition party also wanted the court to direct the Returning Officers to count at least 50 per cent of VVPATS, simultaneously.

After listening to the preliminary arguments by DMK senior counsel P Wilson, the first bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy ordered notice to the EC, returnable by March 29.

It also directed the EC to convene a meeting with all political parties immediately to identify the critical and vulnerable booths for fixing CCTV cameras for video-graphing the polling.

Taking into consideration the views of the recognised political parties, a list of the critical polling booths and a list of vulnerable areas ought to be indicated by the Commission in the counter-affidavit that is to be filed in this matter.

The primary objectives of the Commission should be to ensure that the ordinary voter is satisfied that the process is free and fair and that the incidents of booth-capturing or rigging or tampering with machines are reduced to the level of the insignificant, the bench said.

The judges also wondered as to whether the EC would eliminate the usage of EVMs, which were more than 15 years old.

The bench also told the EC to explore whether jammers could be installed around the strong room where the EVMs are stored. When a request was made to count the VVPATs, the same might be allowed as per the rules, it added.

But the bench said it does not appear that EVMs are such that they can be tampered with without touching them.

To the best of this court's knowledge, EVMs may not carry any chips that may be accessed without touch. However, the Election Commission will indicate its considered view of such aspect, the bench noted.

The DMK counsel told the judges that the set of prayers were to ensure purity in the election and to uphold the democratic tradition of the country. PTI COR SA SAT NVG NVG