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

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

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".

India sees 62 journo deaths, 4th highest, amidst pandemic: Swiss media rights body

By Our Representative The Switzerland-based media rights body Press Emblem Campaign (PEC) has noted that India is the fourth most affected country as far as mediapersons’ death on account of Covid-19 is concerned. According to Blaise Lempen, secretary-general of PEC, the global tally of casualties among media persons in the Covid-19 pandemic has reached 1,036 journalists in 73 countries till date.

Liberating Bengal Hindus? Worst flames of communal division, lessons from the past

By Shamsul Islam*  The whole thrust of the RSS-BJP election campaign for 2021 state assembly elections in West Bengal has been to save Bengal from the rule of Mamata Bannerjee who is allegedly not a ‘Hindu’. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a self-proclaimed Hindu nationalist, as usual set the polarizing agenda. While addressing the first election rally, he called upon the electorate to overthrow the ‘nirmam’ (cruel) rule of Mamata by showing a ‘Ram Card’. He did not name Hindus directly but there was no confusion about the religious identity of the electorate Indian PM was addressing to.

Pradeep Bhattacharya, who spent his life for the cause of working masses, rational thinking

By YS Gill*  At 11:30 pm on May 3, 2021, I lost my best friend and comrade Pradeep Bhattacharya. He spent his life dedicated to the cause of the working masses and rational thinking. A person of thorough scientific outlook and a well-read student of Marxian thought, he was a walking encyclopedia and could speak on a wide variety of topics from art and culture to science, philosophy, history and politics.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Rs 5 crore 'demand' for India Today anchor: What about 52 lesser souls who died in April?

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*  A well known Hindutva protagonist masquerading as journalist passed away recently resulting in messages of condolences and tribute right from the Prime Minister and the Home Minister to progressive liberals expressing grief of his untimely death. It is said that he passed away due to cardiac arrest, though the fact is, he was also Covid infected. The Prime Minister and the Home Minister termed him a ‘brave’ journalist, insisting, his passing away has left a big ‘vacuum’.

Modi's Hindutva 'ensuring' empowerment of rich, disenfranchisement of poor

Bhabani Shankar Nayak*  The Hindutva socio-psychopaths are neither nationalists nor patriotic people. These medieval reactionary forces don’t understand the idea of citizenship, justice, liberty, equality and humanism. Indian democracy is merely an electoral transaction for the Hindutva forces. Hindutva forces neither follow science nor understand the sufferings of fellow human beings. These core qualities are common among the Hindutva forces in India.

Communal rhetoric? Hindutva preached by RSS-BJP is 'monolithic', not Hinduism

By Prem Verma*  I am a devout Hindu but not a believer of RSS Hindutva form of Hinduism which brings about hatred of other religions. My Hindu religion has not taught me to look down on other religions and neither has it instilled in me to go about converting others to my religion because my religion is superior.

India's Covid-19 'nightmare': A product of majoritarian Hindutva ideological praxis?

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*  Indians struggle to find place and time to bury their dead due to the devastating effects of the second wave of Covid-19 in India. The crematoriums in the capital cities are overflowing with dead bodies. People are dying without oxygen and basic medical support. The cities like Delhi and Mumbai are struggling to cope with the rising number of infections and COVID-19 led deaths. The deaths and destitutions are products of a defunct BJP government led by Narendra Modi.

Indian media persons collapsing to Covid disease as fast as 3 per day, third highest

Yogesh Sharma, Shailesh Rawal  By Our Representative  The Switzerland based media rights and safety body, Press Emblem Campaign ( PEC ) has said that it is “alarming for Indian journalists”, who have lost at least 107 colleagues to Covid-19”, noting, Indian “journo-colleagues” have been collapsing to the Covid-19 complications now as fast as three scribes per day. In a statement, PEC said, “India with 107 media corona-casualties has already placed itself on the third position just below Brazil (181 dead) and Peru (140) in the list of Covid-19 victims among journalist.”