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

Political consensus? Celebrations, with over 5,000 plus post-vaccine deaths in India

By Rosamma Thomas*  As India fully vaccinated nearly 20% of its population and celebrated the “milestone” of administering one billion (100 crore) Covid-19 vaccine doses, it was time to remember those who died shortly after vaccination . By October 20, 2021 Twitter handle C400T, tracking deaths reported to have occurred after receiving the Covid-19 shot in India, updated the 5,134th death.

Is sacrilege charge against Punjab Dalits any different from Pak blasphemy cases?

Lakhbir Singh, his wife By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*  There is no doubt that Sikhism actually was a revolt against the Brahmanical system and superstition. Guru Granth Saheb is perhaps the only Holy Book which contains matters from different religions as well as those of various Sufi saints, including Kabir, Ravidas, Baba Farid and others. The aim of Sikhism was to create an egalitarian society, and, definitely, Punjab that way is far better than many other States in India, where violence against Dalits is rampant.

Billion vaccine doses? Devil is in details: 70% haven't got 2nd jab; numbers jacked up

By Prof Ujjwal K Chowdhury*  India has reached the one billion Covid-19 vaccinations milestone. It is indeed a great news and a big salute to the less paid ordinary health-workers in interiors of India for this feat. The government wants all of India's 944 million adults to get vaccinated this year. Around three-quarters of adults in the country of 1.3 billion people have had one shot and around 30 percent are fully vaccinated, the government says.

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Uttarakhand, Kerala disaster due to policies favouring India's developmental mafia

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*  Two of India’s most beautiful regions where thousands of people go to watch and feel the wonders of nature are suffering because of the extremely disastrous rains and floods. The pain that the rains brought to Kerala and Uttarakhand is a warning to all of us. It's nature’s warning to us to mend our ways.

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".

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.

Religious mobs replicate blasphemy laws, 'threatening' liberty in a free country

Nihangs, Lakhbir Singh By Ajit Singh*   A Dalit man, Lakhbir Singh, was mercilessly beaten up and lynched to death near farmers’ protest site in the State of Haryana allegedly by Nihang Sikhs. It was alleged that he committed blasphemy by desecrating the Holy Book Guru Granth Sahib.

Shabana Azmi joins Pak physicist Hoodbhoy to condemn B'desh anti-minority violence

By Our Representative  Several well-known South Asian activists and public figures of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Maldives have expressed “deep distress” by the spate of violence and killings in Bangladesh on the occasion of Durga Puja and Vijayadashami. “Attacks on minorities are a sign of injustice and a matter of shame for any society and bring a bad name to the Government”, they said in a joint statement.

March opposes Sabarmati Ashram renovation: 'Mahatmaji had kept open for access to all'

Counterview Desk A Sevagram to Sabarmati march, which began on October 17 from Wardha (Maharashtra) and will end on October 24 in Ahmedabad (Gujarat), has demanded that the Sabarmati Ashram, the government should not impose "the fashion and glitz of a shallow modernity" at the cost of Rs 1,200 crore, in the name of renovating the Ashram founded by Gandhiji.