The Election Commission of India on Tuesday clarified that electronic voting machines are “absolutely safe” in strongrooms and that allegations of EVMs being moved around allegedly to replace polled EVMs were false.

Opposition leaders had alleged that two trucks carrying EVMs were caught in Chandauli Lok Sabha constituency while that candidates were prevented from guarding the EVM strong rooms in Ghazipur, Uttar Pradesh. The Ghazipur district administration had said earlier in the day that apprehension regarding EVMs were baseless.

While responding to complaints on the alleged movement of EVMs circulating on social media, the poll panel in a statement said: “Election Commission of India would like to emphatically and unambiguously clarify that all such reports and allegations are absolutely false, and factually incorrect. The visuals seen viral on media do not pertain to any EVMs used during the polls.”

The poll panel said any lapse in handling and storage of reserve EVMs are also thoroughly investigated and “disciplinary action taken against the officers responsible”. It said all polled EVMs and Voter verified Paper Audit Trail units are stored at designated strongrooms, which is sealed with double locks in the presence of candidates and observers of the poll panel.

The commission said the entire process of storage and sealing of the strongroom is recorded on video. “Continuous CCTV coverage is done till completion of counting,” it said. The poll panel said strongrooms are guarded round-the-clock by personnel of the Central Armed Police Forces. Candidates or their designated agents are also present at the strongroom at all times.

On the day of counting, strongrooms are opened in the presence of candidates or their agents and observers and the process is recorded, it added. “Before the counting of EVMs commences, the counting agents are shown the address tags, seals and serial number of the EVMs to satisfy themselves to the genuineness and authenticity of the machines used in the actual polls,” it said.

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Protests in Uttar Pradesh

A group of Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and Congress workers had protested at Navin Krishi Mandi Sthal in Chandauli on Monday evening, alleging that EVMs were being changed at the instance of the BJP, the Hindustan Times reported. But the administration denied the claim. “Thirty-five additional unused EVMs were kept at the Sakaldiha tehsil,” District Election Officer Naveen Singh Chahal said. “These couldn’t be transported on Sunday and were brought from Sakaldiha on Monday to be stored in a different place.”