Skip to main content

RTI info on Electronic Voting Machines would 'endanger' life of engineers: BEL

By Our Representative
In a surprise move, one of India’s top electronics public sector undertakings, Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL), has refused to disclose details under the Right to Information (RTI) Act about Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and Voter Verified Paper Trail (VVPAT), used by the Election Commission of India (ECI) for voting across India, stating that such a disclosure “would endanger the life of its engineers.”
Ironically, in June this year, the ECI took an identical view while refusing to disclose under the RTI Act details of the dissent notes of its Commissioner Ashok Lavasa on decisions pertaining to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's speeches, which were alleged to have violated model code, saying it may "endanger the life or physical safety" of an individual.
Top RTI activist Venkatesh Nayak, who is with the advocacy group Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), had sought information on EVM and VVPAT following “scanty information” about the manner in which polls were conducted across India in April-May 2019 general elections, which returned the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government to power with a thumping majority.
Dissatisfied, says Nayak in an email alert to Counterview, several private citizens and mediapersons used RTI to seek information about voter turnout data mismatch, complaints about EVMs malfunctioning, complaints about mismatch of EVMs and VVPAT printouts, movement of EVMs and VVPATs to the electoral constituencies from the manufacturing companies, and details of action taken on complaints received against high profile politicians for violating the Model Code of Conduct.
After many of these requests were turned down by relevant public authorities, Nayak asserts, on June 17, 2019, he decided to file two identical RTI applications seeking information from BEL, as also the Electronics Corporation of India Ltd (ECIL), the two manufacturers of the voting machines.
ECIL, says Nayak, “Uploaded some of this information on the RTI Online Facility but rejected access to some crucial bits of information sought in my RTI application”, but has not received “a formal reply from ECIL.”
As for BEL, Nayak says, initially, the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) of BEL “sent a fee intimation letter for Rs 1,434 for a total of 717 pages after almost a month”, agreeing to “supply most of the information”, even though denying “access to the VVPAT patent application filed with the Office of the Controller General of Patents by citing Section 8(1)(d) of the RTI Act.”
How could BEL say it did not have necessary information on EVMs, VVATs? Which papers did they count before sending the reply that information was contained in 717 pages?
After sending a draft of Rs 1,434 and waiting for 40 days, when Nayak did not hear from the BEL CPIO, on August 28, 2019, he filed an appeal under the RTI Act challenging the non-supply of information, to which, the CPIO, who immediately sent in a reply, returning the bank draft and “claimed that BEL did not have most of the information sought which he had agreed to supply in his first reply”.
The reply particularly said that the disclosure of information would "endanger the life or physical safety of engineers who carried out the assignment related to preparation of EVMs and VVPATs", hence it was being "denied under section (8(1)(g) of the RTI Act, 2005." 
Wondering how could CPIO say that he did not have necessary information, asks Nayak, “Which papers did he count before sending the first reply?”, suspecting, the latest reply is “an afterthought arising out of pressure exerted – probably by an external agency against making this information public.”
Nayak says, refusal to part with information under the RTI Act runs counter to what the Union Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions said about the NDA government's commitment to transparency while replying to the debate on the Bill to amend The Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act) in the Lok Sabha on July 22, 2019.
Referring to RTI, the minister claimed that the government “has been absolutely committed, as in other wings of governance, to ensure full transparency and full accountability". Comments Nayak, “Sadly, this governance philosophy does not seem to have percolated downwards beyond the corridors of the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) with which the Union Minister is associated.”

Comments

Anonymous said…
Article should also indicate , what information was asked for so that people can judge whether reply was reasonable or not.
Editor said…
This is a reply to "article must indicate" what information was sought. The hyperlink is there for all the queries and answers. You can click there

TRENDING

'Flawed' argument: Gandhi had minimal role, naval mutinies alone led to Independence

Counterview Desk Reacting to a Counterview  story , "Rewiring history? Bose, not Gandhi, was real Father of Nation: British PM Attlee 'cited'" (January 26, 2016), an avid reader has forwarded  reaction  in the form of a  link , which carries the article "Did Atlee say Gandhi had minimal role in Independence? #FactCheck", published in the site satyagrahis.in. The satyagraha.in article seeks to debunk the view, reported in the Counterview story, taken by retired army officer GD Bakshi in his book, “Bose: An Indian Samurai”, which claims that Gandhiji had a minimal role to play in India's freedom struggle, and that it was Netaji who played the crucial role. We reproduce the satyagraha.in article here. Text: Nowadays it is said by many MK Gandhi critics that Clement Atlee made a statement in which he said Gandhi has ‘minimal’ role in India's independence and gave credit to naval mutinies and with this statement, they concluded the whole freedom struggle.

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Don't agree on domestic subsidies, ensure food security at WTO meet: Farmer leaders

Counterview Desk  The Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements (ICCFM), a top network of farmers’ organizations in India, in a letter to Piyush Goyal, Minister of Commerce and Industry, has asked him to “safeguard food security and sovereignty, even as ensuring peasants' rights" at the 13th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO MC 13), to take place from 26 to 29 February 2024 in Abu Dhabi.

Sharp 61-85% fall in Tech startup funding in India's top 'business-friendly' States

By Rajiv Shah Funding in Tech startups in top business-friendly Indian states has witnessed a major fall, a data intelligence platform for private market research has said in a series of reports it has released this month. Analysing Tech startup data of Telangana, Maharashtra, Delhi NCR, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala, Tracxn Technologies Ltd , the Bengaluru-based research firm, finds that except for Kerala, funding witnessed a fall of anywhere between 61% and 85%.

Students, lawyers, professors detained in Delhi for demonstrating in support of farmers

By Our Representative  About 25 protestors, belonging to the civil rights network, Campaign Against State Repression (CASR), a coalition of over 40 organisations, were detained at Jantar Mantar for holding a demonstration in support of the farmers' stir on Friday. Those detained included students, lawyers and professors, including Prof Nandita Narain and Prof N Sachin. 

Solar energy funding dips 9% in 2023; 2024 'kicks off' with US$1 billion investment

By Lakshmitha Raj*  Solar energy tech companies have already secured slightly over US$1 billion in funding in 2024 (till Feb 7, 2024) after total funding into Solar Energy companies in India fell 9% to US$1.55B in 2023 from US$1.7B in 2022. A total of 39 $100M+ rounds have been closed till date, with Delhi leading the city-wise funding, followed by Gurugram and Mumbai.

Maize, bajra, jute, banana cultivation banned off West Bengal border: Plea to NHRC

Counterview Desk  West Bengal-based human rights defender Kirity Roy, who is secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Manch, and is national convenor of the Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity, in a representation to the chairman, National Human Rights Commission, second within few days, has bought to light one more case of trespassing and destruction of a fertile banana plantation by BSF personnel along the Indo-Bangladesh border, stating, despite a written complaint to the police has taken "no initiative".

India second best place to invest, next to UAE, yet there is 'lacks support' for IT services

By Sreevas Sahasranamam, Aileen Ionescu-Somers*  The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is the best place in the world to start a new business, according to the latest annual Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) survey. The Arab nation is number one for the third year in a row thanks to a big push by the government into cutting-edge technology in its efforts to diversify away from oil.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Mahanadi delta: Aggressive construction in flood plains, reduced fish stock, pollution

By Sudhansu R Das  Frequent natural calamities, unemployment, low farmers’ income, increase in crime rate and lack of quality human resources to strike a balance between growth and environment etc. continue to haunt the state. The state should delve into the root causes of poverty, unemployment and natural calamities.