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Poll official rejects EVM 'unlocking' news; notices issued to 2 newspapers

Source: PTI
Last updated on: June 16, 2024 21:30 IST
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A poll official on Sunday said an electronic voting machine was a standalone system with "robust administrative safeguards" to protect it from any kind of manipulation and that there was no need for a one-time password to unlock it.

IMAGE: An electoral officer demonstrates the functioning of the EVM and VVPAT during a training programme for polling officials, ahead of Lok Sabha elections, in Prayagraj, April 18, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

Vandana Suryavanshi, returning officer of Mumbai North West Lok Sabha constituency, was reacting to a report in newspapers about a kin of Ravindra Waikar, the Shiv Sena candidate who emerged victorious there by a wafer thin margin of 48 votes, using a mobile phone connected to an EVM during vote counting on June 4.

"The EVM is a standalone system and there is no need for an OTP to unlock it. It is not programmable and has no wireless communication capabilities. It is a lie being spread by a newspaper," Suryavanshi said in a press conference on Sunday.


Suryavanshi said notices had been issued to Mid-day and Marathi daily Lokmat for allegedly publishing false news, adding they have been asked to respond within 24 hours as to why criminal proceedings under Sections 499 and 505 should not be initiated.

As per Vanrai police, Mangesh Pandilkar, brother-in-law of Waikar, was booked under Indian Penal Code section 188 (disobeying official order) on Wednesday for allegedly using a mobile phone at a counting centre in Goregaon on June 4, when results of the general elections were announced.

Speaking at the press conference, Suryavanshi said the personal mobile phone of one Dinesh Gurav, the data entry operator of Jogeshwari assembly constituency, was found in the hands of an unauthorised person and action is being taken in this regard.

"Data entry and vote counting are two different aspects. An OTP enables the ARO to open the encore login system for data entry. The counting process is independent and has nothing to do with unauthorised use of mobile phone, which is an unfortunate incident and is being probed," Suryavanshi added.

"Advance technical features and robust administrative safeguards are in place to rule out any possibility of manipulation. Safeguards include conducting everything in the presence of candidates or their agents," she said.

The official said neither Waikar for losing candidate Amol Kirtikar of the Shiv Sena-Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray had sought a recount but verification of invalid postal ballots was demanded and it was done.

"The counting ETPBS (electronically transmitted postal ballot system) happens in physical form (postal ballots) and not electronically as is being spread as part of a false narrative. Every counting sheet at every table for ETPBS, EVM and postal ballot counting (including ETPBS) is signed by counting agents after due diligence," Suryavanshi asserted.

Suryavanshi said CCTV footage in connection with the issue cannot be given unless there are orders from the competent court.

A Mumbai police official also refuted the news report and said no personnel attached to Vanrai police station had given such information (about Waikar's kin's mobile phone being used to generate OTP to unlock EVM).

Meanwhile, senior Congress leader and former Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan said the poll result of Mumbai North West Lok Sabha seat must be stayed.

The Election Commission of India must call a meeting of all parties and discuss this issue thoroughly, he demanded.

"There must be a probe into the unauthorised used of the mobile phone. The FIR report has not been made public," Chavan said.

Nationalist Congress Party (Sharadchandra Pawar) spokesperson Clyde Crasto said the fact that a relative of Ravindra Waikar had access to the mobile phone of an Election Commission official is a cause for concern.

The EC's polling officer has said OTP is required only for data entry of the vote counting process, which means generation of this OTP can also give access to data to Waikar's kin and it can be manipulated by him or his team, Crasto asserted.

"This is very serious. The ECI needs to come clean on what transpired in the time the phone was with Waikar's team," he said.

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India Votes 2024

India Votes 2024