New EVMs will be used in coming polls: EC informs HC

Chennai: The Election Commission on Tuesday informed the Madras High Court that it would use only new Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), manufactured three to four years ago, for the April 6 Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu.

Following the submission, the court disposed of a petition from the DMK on the matter.

The EC’s submission was made in its counter-affidavit filed before the first bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy when the PIL from DMK Organising secretary R S Bharathy came up for further hearing today.

In response to DMK’s plea not to use EVMs which are beyond the expiry of 15 years, the EC agreed to use only M3-EVMs, manufactured between 2017-2019.

On another plea of the DMK for provision of jammers, the EC submitted that the same are not required as the strong rooms, where the loaded EVMs will be stored after polling, cannot be tampered with by wifi, radio waves or by any other methods.

To ensure it, the entire power supply inside the strong rooms will be cut-off during pre and post elections, the poll body added.

As directed by the bench on March 24, the EC convened a meeting with all political parties and submitted the minutes in a sealed cover, according to which there are 537 critical booths and 10,813 vulnerable ones in the state.

The EC said webcasting will be done from 44,000 booths while VVPAT (paper trail) will be counted without reference to 5 per cent mandatory counting.

The bench observed that the EC’s counter-affidavit demonstrates a kind of clarity, not generally associated with affidavits filed by the officialdom.

Several aspects of its March 24 order had been specifically dealt with, by referring to the applicable guidelines and the measures taken in such regard.

It must be appreciated that given the logistics, the conditions on the ground, the second wave of the surging pandemic and the financial restraints, it may not be possible for a completely foolproof plan of action to be charted out, the court said.

The EC would have done well if it reduces the scope of tampering or lessens the doubts in the minds of the participants and conveys a general sense of strict adherence to the guidelines.

Towards such end, the counter-affidavit filed by the Commission and the specific replies to the queries raised by the Court, apropos the areas of concern expressed by the petitioner, indicate a satisfactory level of preparedness on the part of the EC that should dispel all apprehensions and even allay legitimate misgivings, the bench said.

The several aspects that have been alluded to on behalf of the petitioner appear to have been satisfactorily addressed on behalf of the Election Commission.

It was necessary to record the areas of apprehension in great detail and the manner in which the EC has gone about addressing the same to instill confidence of the people in the system that is in place and to allay the apprehension and the misgivings harboured in certain quarters.

In the light of the work done by the Election Commission, it is granted permission not to circulate the details pertaining to the vulnerable or critical booths for the districts other than the two referred to earlier.

At the end of the day, the elections must not only have been conducted in an fair and transparent manner, but it also must be seen to have been so done, the judges added.