Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Is electronic voting machine not foolproof? 'Switch over to ballot box', says People's Union of Civil Liberties

By Our Representative
Close on the heels of massive setback to the Congress in four states’ assembly elections, top human rights organization, Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), which claims to “preserve the democratic values”, has made a controversial observation: That the electronic voting machine (EVM) is “not foolproof for free and fair polling process” and there is no sense in “rigidly sticking to it in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections”. Opining in favour of returning to the old ballot box voting system, the PUCL said, if this is not possible then it is not necessary to organize the forthcoming elections with the dual system of polling – voting through the EVM and the ballot box.
Asserting that the observation is based on an investigation by a group of experts – consisting of Rahul Mehta, who is B Tech in computer science, IIT Delhi , and MS in computer science, Rutgers, New Jersey State University; Balendu Vaghela, computer technologist from Rajkot; Raju Dipti, who are masters in engineering; and Mahesh Pandya, an environmental engineer -- the PUCL stated these members found the working of the EVMs faulting after scrutinized whether the EVMs being used in the election process in India immune or above any kind of doubts; whether the EVMs are technically satisfactory and defect-free or foolproof; and whether there is possibility of tampering with the EVMs on a large scale.
Without suggesting the EVMs in the latest assembly polls may have been “manipulated”, the PUCL claimed, this happened in the December 2012 elections to the Gujarat legislature, after which doubts about credibility of EVM were expressed from all over and we had also received wide ranging complaints. “Some complaints were based on the experience and some complaints were of such a nature that it was not possible to rationally and logically reply. Some complaints were based on the analysis of results but were having substance in them “, it added.
Suggesting that it in this backdrop that the experts were asked to look into the veracity of the EVMs, the PUCL said, the findings and recommendation put forth by them were:
“(1) The EVM method is such that even the voter does not know in whose favor he is casting his vote. Hence for free and just polling, it is inevitable to go back to the system of voting by the back to ballot.
“(2) The fact that the Election Commission has admitted that there is scope for improvement in the present system, proves that the system is not foolproof.
(3) Every citizen of the country has a right to know whether the polling process being carried on by the autonomous body such as Election Commission is impartial, credible and foolproof or not. In this context, when these questions are raised at different stages, instead of giving clear and proper replies, the Election Commission is giving round-about and defensive replies.”
Wondering why the Election Commission is not ready and willing to offer EVMs for scientific scrutiny by impartial experts in the electronic field, knowledgeable persons in this line and other experts to prove that the same are tamper-proof and foolproof and thus to prove its credibility and answerability, the PUCL says, “In the countries such as Germany and other countries, governments have indeed done this.” It adds, “Many countries of the world do not consider the EVM as reliable. Then why is there adamant and stubborn insistence for its use in India?”
The PUCL said, “The study of EVM was carried out for California State of America. On seeing that the result was negative, ban on use of EVM for election purposes was imposed by the California government. Not only in California, use of EVM was banned in 21 other states of America. This has also been the case in Europe and other countries from where India had learned of this kind of method. These countries are also opposing it then we must learn from it and it is inevitable for us to go back to the polling by back to ballot paper method.”
The PUCL further said, “When a case was filed in the Supreme Court against the Election Commission by raising doubts about credibility of the EVM, then later on, the Election Commission admitted and confessed about the defect and advanced a contention/ claim that new types of EVMs have been got ready. But to bring the same into implementation and looking to the need of the time, energy and finances there does not appear to be any possibility of using it during the parliamentary elections for 2014.”
The statement was released by Gautam Thaker, general secretary, PUCL, Gujarat. It is not known if the central PUCL agrees with this view. When queried, Thaker said, “We are trying to convince the national PUCL leaders about what we believe on EVM.”

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