Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora claimed on Saturday that allegations of tampering of electronic voting machines are “more than unfair” and “made with criminal intent”, PTI reported. However, Arora on Monday denied making these comments and claimed that he had only said that “tampering by definition indicates criminal intent”. He said there was a clear distinction between what he said and the “nuance attributed” by the news agency.
Arora said at a business conclave at the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta that EVMs may sometimes be faulty but they cannot be tampered with.
“Malfunctioning is very different from tampering,” he said. “The electronic voting machines [EVM] cannot be tinkered with. If you say otherwise, you have a criminal intent, which we deeply resent,” he was quoted as saying by the news agency.
“The EVMs were made in a secure environment and distinguished emeritus professors of reputed institutes have supervised the entire process,” Arora added. He said that two highly-reputed companies have manufactured the EVMs.
The chief election commissioner claimed that political parties like the Trinamool Congress and the Congress levelled allegations of EVM tampering only after the Lok Sabha elections were over. “This is more than unfair,” he said. “When you lose why make the machine a flogging object? The charges hurt the integrity of the Election Commission and those involved in the process of making the voting machines.”
Arora also contested these comments attributed to him and said he did not name any political parties or leaders. Instead, he said that since the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, there have been all kinds of results in which different political entities won.
“As a matter of principal, ECI eschews reference to any political party/leader(s) by name,” the statement by Arora on Monday said. “If there is an authentic audio recording of the speech made by me, it would bear out the difference between what was said and what was attributed,” he added.
Arora conceded that the poll panel had to replace some “black sheep” during the Lok Sabha elections. “The poll panel had to make changes, replace a couple of officers, including one in West Bengal, during the Lok Sabha polls,” he said.
Arora said that the Election Commission is now preparing for Assembly elections in Maharashtra and Haryana in October-November. He added that polls in Delhi and Jharkhand will also be held soon.
On July 24, the Centre had told the Lok Sabha that EVMs are “completely non-tamperable”. Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad quoted the Election Commission to make this claim. “The Commission has informed that the EVMs are completely non-tamperable,” said Prasad. “These EVMs are technically sound and the Commission has put in place strict administrative safeguards for their free, fair and transparent use.”
Opposition parties have repeatedly expressed doubts about the credibility of electronic voting machines in the last two years. Two days before the counting of votes in May, representatives of 22 Opposition parties met the Election Commission to reiterate their demand that Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail slips of randomly selected polling stations be verified before counting of votes. The Election Commission, however, refused to change the process of the counting.
Correction and clarification: This article was updated to add the Election Commission’s denial.