The Election Commission of India (ECI) on Thursday, referring to a report filed by Frontline, a Hindu Group’s fortnightly magazine, dismissed reports of almost 20 lakh Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) have gone missing within a period of 25 years.
ECI spokesperson Sheyphali Sharan stated, “There is no truth in the contention that RTI-based Public Interest Litigation in the Bombay High Court ‘points out that 20 lakh EVMs that the manufacturers affirm to have delivered are ‘missing’ from the possession of the Election Commission”.
The Frontline article, titled “Missing” EVMs, claimed that the poll panel had informed the High Court in response to a Right To Information query in June 2017 that it received 10,05,662 EVMs from Bharat Electronics Limited between 1989-’90 and 2014-’15, and 10,14,644 machines from Electronics Corporation of India Limited between 1989-’90 and 2016-’17.
However, in January 2018, Bharat Electronics Limited in response to the RTI query said that it had supplied 19,69,932 EVMs to ECI in the particular period. Similarly, in September 2017, the Electronics Corporation of India Limited responded that it had supplied 19,44,593 EVMs to the commission.
It may be noted that these details were furnished as part of the documents submitted by RTI activist Manoranjan Roy in the Bombay High Court on March 27, 2018. The petition sought details about the procurement, storage and deployment of voting machines and Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trails by the Election Commission and the state poll panels.
Significantly, the RTI responses also brought forward that there was a discrepancy of about Rs 116.55 crore during this time period.
In a letter issued to Frontline and television channel TV9 Bharatvarsh, Sharan said, “It is noticed that this news story has selectively quoted some information obtained by an individual through RTI application from multiple public authorities and a PIL filed in the Bombay High Court”, adding, “This news story carried only partial and one-sided information, which is inaccurate and based on specious misinterpretation of the facts in the matter, thereby creating unwarranted doubts in the minds of general public.”
Further, the spokesperson also claimed the allegations that “the absence of proper system and infrastructure could lead to misplacement of EVMs along with misappropriation of funds” were mere conjectures.
“As regards concerns about movement of EVMs, for matter of record, it is reiterated that not a single EVM moves out of the designated warehouse without prior approval of the commission and strict compliance to administrative protocols prescribed for movement of EVMs and VVPATs,” read the letter.
“The commission has a robust ‘EVM Management Software’ through which the status of every EVM/VVPAT can be tracked on real time basis and only first-level-check cleared EVMs, properly logged in EMS, are used for poll purpose.” Sharan added in her letter.
The spokesperson on Thursday informed that both Frontline and TV9 Bharatvarsh had been intimated about the details in their “misleading” stories. “Editor Frontline has acknowledged that due rejoinder shall be published. TV9channel has deleted the story from their telecast,” she added.