The Election Commission of India on Thursday dismissed reports that nearly 20 lakh Electronic Voting Machines have gone missing in a 25-year period.
“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,” said the poll panel’s spokesperson Sheyphali Sharan.
The commission was referring to an article in Frontline, a fortnightly magazine published by the Hindu Group. The article, titled “Missing” EVMs, claimed that the poll panel told the High Court in response to a Right To Information query in June 2017 that it received 10,05,662 electronic voting machines from Bharat Electronics Limited between 1989-’90 and 2014-’15, and 10,14,644 voting machines from Electronics Corporation of India Limited between 1989-’90 and 2016-’17.
However, in January 2018, Bharat Electronics Limited said in response to the RTI query that it had supplied 19,69,932 electronic voting machines to the poll panel in the said period. Similarly, in September 2017, the Electronics Corporation of India Limited responded that it had supplied 19,44,593 voting machines to the commission.
These details were 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.
The RTI responses also showed that there was a discrepancy of about Rs 116.55 crore during this time period.
“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,” Sharan said in a letter to Frontline and television channel TV9 Bharatvarsh. “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.”
The spokesperson said that allegations of mismatches in order and supply of the voting machines and the presumption that “the absence of proper system and infrastructure could lead to misplacement of EVMs along with misappropriation of funds” were 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,” Sharan added in the letters. “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.” This is done transparently with the active participation of political parties and contesting candidates, she added.
“It is hoped that your magazine would observe the highest professional and ethical standards in reporting and would not be a party, even unwittingly, to malicious efforts at spreading misinformation,” Sharan told Frontline.
The spokesperson said on Thursday evening that both Frontline and TV9 Bharatvarsh had been informed of 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.