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PIL on EVM: Bombay HC issues notices to EC, Centre, Maharashtra

In recent RTI queries raised by Roy, it had been revealed how the Bengaluru-based BEL had despatched large quantities of electronic voting machines by ‘hand-delivery’ and ‘by post’ to various unidentified recipients.

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Mumbai, Sep 19 (IANS) In a significant development, the Bombay High Court on Wednesday ordered issuing of notices to the Election Commission of India (EC), Maharashtra State Election Commission (M-SEC) and two public sector makers of electronic voting machines (EVM) and others in a public interest litigation filed by an RTI activist.

The directions were given by Justice S.S. Kemkar and Justice S.V. Kotwal when the PIL filed by activist Manoranjan S. Roy came up for admission.

Others being served notices are the Union Home Ministry, IT Department and Maharashtra Government. The two EVM manufacturers are Electronics Corporation of India Ltd. and Bharat Electronics Ltd. The matter is expected to come up for further hearing after two weeks, according to the lawyer for Roy, P. Pawar of Pawar & Co.

The petitioner, among other things, had highlighted the manner in which a large number of EVMs and Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPATs) were being ordered by the EC and various SECs and that there were huge contradictions in the figures of orders and supplies made by the two manufacturers.

In recent RTI queries raised by Roy, it had been revealed how the Bengaluru-based BEL had despatched large quantities of electronic voting machines by ‘hand-delivery’ and ‘by post’ to various unidentified recipients.

BEL said it had despatched 820 balloting units (BUs) of the machines in bulk packaging, and on two occasions in April (2017) it sent 245 (VVPAT) machines ‘By Hand’, to certain recipients and destinations, according to the RTI replies given to Roy.

Roy told IANS that on both the occasions, BEL did not state to whom the consignments of BUs were ‘posted’ or from where the entire lot of the ‘hand-delivered’ VVPATs originated and whether they were received safely by the intended recipients.

Roy said that for the entire lot of 820 BUs sent through India Posts, there are only nine Docket Nos. assigned for the total consignment, which comprises two boxes with 50 BUs each and one box each with 60, 70, 80, 90, 100, 110 and 210 BUs.

“This is misleading as each box has a specific size depending on the dimensions of the BUs. The BEL’s reply shows the entire consignment was posted in only nine boxes, though the Indian Posts does not accept — nor is equipped to handle — such huge parcels,” Roy said.

BEL said on April 6 and April 10, 2017, that it delivered VVPATs in three parcels — 65, 70 and 110, respectively — ‘By Hand’ and ‘urgent delivery’ to avoid the regular logistics route.

In March this year, Pawar & Company had filed Roy’s PIL, seeking detailed investigations into the delivery of EVMs and a ban on deploying EVMs/VVPATs till the outcome of the probe.

As the country prepares for the 2019 general elections, several instances of “indiscriminate” orders and deliveries of EVMs have emerged in RTI responses, Roy said.

Between 1989-1990 to 2015-2016, BEL supplied 125,149 EVMs to Karnataka, 169,975 to Bihar, 159,900 to Uttar Pradesh, 140,500 to Tamil Nadu, 87,325 to Andhra Pradesh, 50,850 to Gujarat, 50,050 to Rajasthan, 23,000 to Jharkhand, 10,000 to Delhi, 3,000 to Manipur and 2,000 to Sikkim.

Inexplicably, BEL also supplied 500 EVMs to Chandigarh, which is the only city to get its own machines. Elsewhere, the EVMs go to the respective states from where they are distributed. Roy demanded that BEL — and the Election Commission of India — must explain why Chandigarh got this differential treatment.

According to information received by Roy, in 2013-2014, BEL supplied the highest number of VVPATs — 2,455 — to Karnataka, followed by 2,275 to Bihar, 2,140 to Gujarat, 1,500 to Mizoram, 1,475 to Tamil Nadu, 130 to Delhi and 25 to EC.

The other EVM supplier ECIL, Hyderabad, said in response to RTI queries that in 2014-2015 it had supplied 10,000 VVPATs to the Commission (EC).

Significantly, ECIL earlier said it had not supplied a single EVM to any state between 2006-2007 till 2013-2014.

In another communication under RTI, ECIL stated that in 2004-2005 it had supplied 91,050 BUs and 91,050 Control Units (CUs) and from 2014 to 2017 it had sent out 294,337 BUs and 109,075 CUs.

“So where are all these huge number of machines now? The ECIL and EC must clarify,” Roy said.

Kerala State Election Commission (KSEC) said in response to RTI queries that in 2015 it had ordered 128,154 EVMs, comprising 9,753 boxes of BUs and 3,125 boxes of CUs. Each box has an average capacity of holding 10 BUs or CUs, depending on the model.

Roy said that there was inadequate accounting of EVMs at various stages, raising questions about the sanctity of the machines on which the Indian democracy was so dependent.

Also, there were no proper records of the EVMs that were actually deployed for elections, the details of defective/defunct machines, the different types of models acquired and used and the type of software-hardware used, he added.

Further, in view of the latest statement by the EC that EVMs used in recent Delhi University elections were supplied by manufacturers directly and were ‘distinctly different’ than those supplied to the Commission, detailed accounting of the machines is required, Roy told IANS.

(Quaid Najmi can be reached at [email protected])

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Changing alliances set the tone for Bihar Polls

The BJP’s Bihar unit President Sanjay Jaiswal says the NDA has jumped into the poll fray with full force. The BJP-led NDA parties were contesting on the sole plank of development.

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Patna, Sep 23 : Political parties in Bihar are busy chalking out strategies for the Assembly elections which are likely to be held in October-November this year though the Election Commission (EC) has not yet announced the poll dates.

In many cases, parties which were friends during the last elections will now be seen as opponents while foes in the last polls have joined hands.

In the last assembly elections, the BJP and the Janata Dal (United) fought against each other but in this election they are together in the NDA-fold.

The Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) is likely to remain in the NDA this time as well but the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) which was with the NDA during the last elections has severed ties with it. Former Union Minister Upendra Kushwaha’s party RLSP is now part of the Opposition Grand Alliance (Mahagathbandhan) for the forthcoming election.

However, the RLSP and the Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP) are said to be upset as the seat-sharing formula in the Grand Alliance has not yet been decided.

Former MP Pappu Yadav has also announced to contest this year’s election through the Jan Adhikar Party (Loktantrik). Yadav has not yet aligned with any opposition party.

The BJP is enthused with the JDU coming back to the NDA. The importance of the Bihar elections for the BJP can be gauged from the fact that its National President J.P. Nadda has already reached Patna and is busy reviewing preparations for the polls.

The Left which contested the last elections alone is likely to join the Grand Alliance this time. There have been several rounds of talks between the Left and the RJD on contesting the elections together.

RJD spokesperson Mrityunjay Tiwari said the Opposition grand alliance should expand its outreach. Negotiations were on with many other parties, he added. Asked about the resentment over the seat-sharing formula, he said candidates who could guarantee a win were being selected.

The BJP’s Bihar unit President Sanjay Jaiswal says the NDA has jumped into the poll fray with full force. The BJP-led NDA parties were contesting on the sole plank of development.

In the last Bihar assembly elections, the JDU, the RJD and the Congress had contested together under the Grand Alliance and formed the government with absolute majority. Later, however the JDU broke away from the alliance and formed the government in Bihar by joining hands with the BJP.

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Election

Facebook plans drastic measures if US polls descend into chaos: Report

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San Francisco, Sep 22 : Facebook is bracing for tough measures to restrict content in case the November elections in the US descend into chaos or violent protests, according to a report in the Financial Times on Tuesday.

The plans were revealed by Facebook’s head of global affairs, Nick Clegg, in an interview to the newspaper.

“There are some break-glass options available to us if there really is an extremely chaotic and, worse still, violent set of circumstances,” Clegg was quoted as saying.

Facebook is under pressure to help maintain the integrity of the elections as it has faced criticism for failing to contain the spread of disinformation and hate speech on the platform.

It was even accused of failing to prevent attempts to create divisions in American society through disinformation campaigns by foreign players during the 2016 presidential election.

The stakes appear to be even higher this time with reports of similar attempts to influence the US presidential elections by groups operating from Russia, China and Iran.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg earlier this month announced additional steps it is taking to help secure the integrity of the US elections by encouraging voting, connecting people to authoritative information, and reducing the risks of post-election confusion.

These include measures to attach an informational label to content that seeks to delegitimise the outcome of the election or discuss the legitimacy of voting methods, for example, by claiming that lawful methods of voting will lead to fraud.

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Election

Wrong policies led to failure of Cong-RJD govts in Bihar: Owaisi

People of the country are facing the consequences due to the wrong moves of the Congress party,” the AIMIM chief said.

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asaduddin owaisi

Patna, Sep 19 — All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi on Saturday claimed that wrong policies led to the failure of the Congress and RJD governments in Bihar.

Owaisi was in Patna as the AIMIM entered into an alliance with the Samajwadi Janata Dal Democratic (SJDD) ahead of the Bihar polls.

“We will fight the election under the leadership of Devendra Prasad Yadav, the president of SJDD. We welcome all those parties who want to fight against communalism and communal parties,” the AIMIM chief said.

“We are not scared of any political party. Our party had contested the election in 2015 from Kishanganj, but the Congress won. Today the BJP is riding high in Bihar due to the failure of the RJD. I have defeated the BJP and the Shiv Sena in Hyderabad,” Owaisi said.

“In Maharashtra, the Congress party is sitting on the Shiv Sena’s lap. The former is presented as a secular party in the country but I would believe that its thinking promotes feudalism. People of the country are facing the consequences due to the wrong moves of the Congress party,” the AIMIM chief said.

The AIMIM has already declared it will contest on 50 seats in the upcoming assembly elections in Bihar.

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