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

IMA vs Ramdev: Why what's good or bad for goose should be good or bad for gander

By Dr Amitav Banerjee, MD* Baba Ramdev and his associate Balkrishna faced the wrath of the Supreme Court for their propaganda about their Ayurvedic products and belittling mainstream medicine. Baba Ramdev had to apologize in court. His apology was not accepted and he may face the contempt of court with harsher punishment. The Supreme Court acted on a public interest litigation (PIL) moved by the Indian Medical Association (IMA).

Women innovators on simple, revolutionary alternate solutions for water problems

By Proshakha Maitra, Mansee Bal Bhargava* The detrimental effects of uncontrolled population rise and accelerated change in the global climate have posed tremendous pressure on the water and sanitation. This calls all stakeholders, from both developed and developing nations, to improve their resilience and to instigate sustainability. It is more crucial than ever to optimise the use of the resources we have on hand since the world population is projected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050.

Magnetic, stunning, Protima Bedi 'exposed' malice of sexual repression in society

By Harsh Thakor*  Protima Bedi was born to a baniya businessman and a Bengali mother as Protima Gupta in Delhi in 1949. Her father was a small-time trader, who was thrown out of his family for marrying a dark Bengali women. The theme of her early life was to rebel against traditional bondage. It was extraordinary how Protima underwent a metamorphosis from a conventional convent-educated girl into a freak. On October 12th was her 75th birthday; earlier this year, on August 18th it was her 25th death anniversary.

Alleged killing of another Bangladesh youth inside Indian territory: NHRC inquiry sought

By Kirity Roy* There was yet another incident of the killing of a Bangladeshi youth by the Border Security Force personnel attached with ‘Barthar’ BOP of ‘G’ Company of 75 BSF Battalion. In last five years several incidents of killings happened under this police station’s jurisdiction and the cases will get the award as “Not Guilty” as usual.

Modi model, Hindutva icon 'justified' alliance with Muslim League before Independence

By Shamsul Islam*  Our PM describes himself as ‘Hindu’ nationalist and member of RSS. He proudly shares the fact that he was groomed to be a political leader by one of the two fathers of the Hindutva politics, MS Golwalkar (the other being VD Savarkar) and given the task of establishing Hindutva polity in India after eradicating secularism.

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. 

Crusader for people’s causes, this Hollywood actor entered 'unexplored zones' in US

By Harsh Thakor*  Marlon Brando on April 3rd completes his birth centenary. He perished in 2004, on July 1, aged 80 years. Arguably in Hollywood Brando penetrated sensitivity and versatility at an unparalleled scale and discovered new horizons or explored path breaking zones in acting.

Nuclear power expansion: Is AEC's new, 'unrealistic' target fully backed by PMO?

By Shankar Sharma*  Another unrealistic and tall claim by Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) has been announced: India is eyeing 100 GW nuclear power by 2047, the AEC chairman  AK Mohanty   has said. A few years ago, the dream target for the Indian nuclear establishment was 275,000 MWe of nuclear power by 2050 (as per DAE document of 2008 "A Strategy for the Growth of Electricity in India”). Now this target of 100 GW nuclear power by 2047. And as at the end of February 2024, the actual nuclear power capacity was only 7,480 MWe, which formed only 1.7% of the total power capacity in the country. 

How huge crowd at Mukhtar Ansari funeral is comparable to BJP's 'people's court' talk

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*  The massive crowd at the funeral of Mukhtar Ansari in Mohammadabad reflects the power and influence that his family wields in the area. One can't deny that he had enormous power in Ghazipur and Mau districts. But the crowd that came and chanted slogans in his favour does not exonerate him of his conviction by the court.  It is important that we understand this. 

'Critical for cultural and ecological security': Ladakh women seek statehood, self-rule

By Our Representative Six Ladakhi women from different organisations in the region, who concluded their 10 day fast, have told an online press conference that it is necessary to provide statehood to Ladakh, even as declaring the region under the 6th schedule, for “deepening democracy, preserving ecology, and for survival.” Feminists across India joined the media meet in solidarity with the Ladakh movement “for 6th schedule, statehood and justice.”