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  1. Supreme Court to hear plea seeking to limit physical access to EVMs only to authorised persons

Supreme Court to hear plea seeking to limit physical access to EVMs only to authorised persons

The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear after two weeks a plea seeking direction to the authorities to ensure that physical access to the Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) is limited only to authorised engineers after obtaining security clearances.

By: | New Delhi | Updated: September 4, 2018 5:35 PM
supreme court order, supreme court news today, evm news, evm news today The petition, filed by a journalist and Uttarakhand-resident Ashish Goyal, sought to publish the list of such authorised engineers and be made available to the contesting political parties as well as be uploaded on the web site of the Election Commission of India (ECI). (Reuters)

The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear after two weeks a plea seeking direction to the authorities to ensure that physical access to the Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) is limited only to authorised engineers after obtaining security clearances.

The petition, filed by a journalist and Uttarakhand-resident Ashish Goyal, sought to publish the list of such authorised engineers and be made available to the contesting political parties as well as be uploaded on the web site of the Election Commission of India (ECI).

A bench of Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan, which for the time being did not issue the notice, asked the petitioner (Goyal) to serve the copy on the counsel for the poll panel. The bench later posted the matter for further hearing after two weeks. The petition said the upkeep and maintenance of EVMs during elections is by the authorised engineers of Electronics Corporation of India Limited(ECIL) and Bharat Electronics Limited(BEL), the two government firms that are also made parties in the matter.

“The information available in public domain states that despite assertions by the Respondent No 1 (ECI) that only employees of Respondent No 2 (ECIL) and 3 (BEL) were allowed access, it has come to light that several consultants purporting to be engaged on behalf of Respondent No 2 were allowed physical access to the EVMs.

“This is completely against the Manual on Electronic Voting Machine and VVPAT of the Respondent No 1 itself,” the petition said. The plea said that permitting outsiders such as consultants and that too without the necessary security/background checks to have physical access to the EVMs raises serious doubts about the integrity of the EVMs.

“Pass appropriate direction to Respondent No1 (ECI), to ensure that physical access to the EVMs is limited only to authorised engineers of the Respondent No 2 and 3 and only after obtaining security clearances in respect of such personnel,” the petition said.

The plea also sought setting up of a high-powered committee headed by a retired judge of the apex court to enquire and report whether in the assembly elections held from 2014 till date, any private person has been permitted access to handle EVMs in breach of the Manual on Electronic Voting Machine of the election commission and in particular to conduct a formal enquiry “into the antecedents of the additional private persons” who were granted physical access to the EVMs during the Uttarakhand General Assembly Elections, 2017.

It sought to place on the website the exact number of EVMs which have been manufactured by ECIL and BEL as also the exact number of EVMs which have been handed over to the ECI. It has also sought a direction that the firms which are manufacturing the EVMs for the poll panel not to export them without consulting and taking the consent of the authorities.

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