Former Chief Election Commissioner (CEC), SY Quraishi, raised doubts on the effectiveness and the safety of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) that are now being widely used by the election commission throughout the country.

The ex-CEC on Saturday expressed his concerns regarding the EVMs and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) on his Twitter account and posted a tweet saying, “If reports of outsourcing of EVMs’ first and second level checks are true, it is disconcerting. Must be stopped forthwith. Custodial security of the machines is central to EVM security.”

Quraishi further tweeted to explain the functioning of VVPAT and how it made the EVMs more reliable, transparent, and safer to use. He said, “With the introduction of VVPAT – Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail, the EVMs have become safer and more transparent. 100% machines in both HP and Gujarat are attached with VVPAT.”

He added, “I got VVPAT machines made and tested. A whole day test was conducted in 5 different regions. Since many bugs were discovered, the Coys were asked to rectify these. Only after EC was sure, it was introduced.”

After the Gujarat High Court rap, Quraishi’s views and comments would be music to Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee’s (GPCC) ears but the issue of EVMs continue to heat up the debate in the state with just 20 days left for the first round of Gujarat Assembly elections.

EC responds to petition

On 6 November, the Gujarat High court, acting on the petition filed by the GPCC regarding the use of faulty EVMs during the coming elections, had directed the Election Commission of India (EC) and the Chief Electoral Officer of Gujarat over the issue of defective voting and VVPAT machines found during the first-level check and asked for a detailed explanation.

Responding to the petition the EC said that during the first level check about 4,066 VVPATs and 3050 balloting units were found to have technical issues and hence all of them have been replaced.

After two more rounds of checking all the EVMs and VVPAT machines, now at all district headquarters, are without any fault and ready to be used. The EC further said that not one of the now available machines at any of the center has any technical snags.

The Congress representative in the court then brought up the topic of old EVMs being easily tempered with and pleaded to get them replaced with new EVM machines if they were more than 15 years old.

GPCC demanded replacement of EVMs and VVPAT

The GPCC had requested for all faulty EVMs and VVPAT to be replaced before the elections. The petitioner had also claimed that 15-year-old EVMs can be tampered with and hence paper voting should be used in the coming elections.

The latest allegation by the GPCC lawyer brought a strong rebuke for the High Court bench headed by Justice Akil Kureshi and Justice AY Kogje who asked the party to prove their baseless allegations being created out of hearsay and media reports.

The court has asked the GPCC representative to bring before the court any substantial proof and kept November 22 as the date for further hearing.