New Delhi: The Congress on Friday termed as “most serious” reports of the Election Commission identifying “defective” VVPAT machines and asked the poll body to take everyone into confidence to help restore public faith in the integrity of the electoral process.
The opposition party posed several questions to the EC, and said it must respond with full transparency on VVPATs to help restore trust in the election process.
Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera said media reports have revealed that the EC has allegedly “identified 6.5 lakh VVPAT machines as defective” and has sent them to the manufacturers for repair.
These VVPAT machines are of the latest ‘M3’ type, first introduced by the EC in 2018, and used in elections since then, he said, adding 17.4 lakh VVPAT machines were notified for use in the Lok Sabha elections of 2019.
However, referring to media reports regarding defects in VVPATs, the Election Commission has said that 3.43 lakh VVPATs were identified for preventive maintenance and not 6.5 lakh as reported.
Officials have asserted that a defective VVPAT in no way gives erroneous result, but only signifies stoppage of functioning during poll process.
Khera said the Congress is considering this a “most serious issue” affecting the very integrity of the electoral process as the number of machines in which defects have been found is allegedly more than one-third (37 percent) the number used in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
“Voters in the Lok Sabha elections in 2019, and subsequent Assembly elections, may have had their vote affected. VVPATs themselves were introduced as a measure to boost public confidence in EVMs. In an atmosphere of increasing questions on EVMs, defects at such a large scale require full transparency to restore public faith and trust in the electoral process,” he said.
Noting that this cannot be treated as an isolated incident, the Congress leader said the defects are “serious” enough that the machines have been returned to the manufacturers in contravention of the EC’s own Standard Operating Procedure (SOP).
“Political parties have not been informed in detail about the reason for these machines being recalled. Our ground level workers tell us they were informed that this activity is being carried out as general procedure by election officials. We have only realised the scale of the issue after media reports, rather than being informed by the EC,” Khera noted.
Noting that the faith, trust and confidence of every Indian in the process of election is integral to democracy, he said it is key not only to our image as the world’s largest democracy, but also in giving every citizen a voice — a power to influence the policies of the government.
Khera said at this critical time the power of the vote is even more precious and no doubts should be allowed to linger around it.
“This is the latest in a series of incidents which have slowly eroded public confidence in EVMs and VVPATS. We hope the Election Commission responds fully and speedily to our questions, and restores public confidence by proactively dispelling the questions which have been raised around VVPATs,” Khera said.
Posing a set of eight questions, he asked whether the EC has been able to identify the exact “defects” being observed in the VVPAT machines and why has the rectification and identification of “defects” in VVPATs machines been delayed.
“Has the EC been able to identify all machines where defects have been reported, i.e., have all VVPAT machines been tested for defects? Why were the defects not detected at the first level checks, which are in place for VVPAT machines,” he said and asked whether the Commission has sought reports from DEOs and CEOs who were in-charge of these particular machines declared defective.
“What additional safeguards is the EC planning to put in force in order to prevent similar incidents in the future which have far reaching consequences on the elections? In view of the present issues raised in respect of the functioning of VVPAT machines, will the EC continue the usage of these machines in any upcoming elections,” Khera also asked.