EVM controversy: Fresh instances of malfunction reported

Written by Sabrangindia | Published on: May 31, 2019
The 2019 Lok Sabha elections was filled with a lot of political turnarounds and controversies especially relating to the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT). Soon after an unexpected landslide victory of the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), concerns were raised regarding EVM malfunctioning and tampering. In fact, nationwide protests were held against the EVM failures and for demanding to go back to the ballot papers, including in the BJP’s stronghold, Gujarat.

EVM

Just yesterday the Indian Express reported that on the counting day on April  23, VVPAT slips from 351 VVPATs were counted after the Control Units (CUs), the heart of the EVM, failed to display results due to “technical reasons.” Also, 29 VVPATs were counted in polling booths where mock-poll data were not erased.

Asked about the failure of a large number of machines in Gujarat, despite them being brand new, S Murali Krishna, Chief Electoral Officer of Gujarat just said, “We have submitted a report to the Election Commission of India in Delhi.” However, he didn’t get into the nitty-gritties of it and dodged the question.

There were reports of EVM malfunctioning even during the various election phases. During the first phase, there were reports of an EVM failure in a polling booth at Dehradun, Uttarakhand. However, the EVM started working later. In Bijnore, Uttar Pradesh (UP), there was an EVM failure in a polling booth set up in Arya Inter College which delayed the voting by 30 minutes. At another constituency in UP, Baghpat, EVM failure was reported at polling booth number 156 in village Basauli.

Further, across the 139 polling booths in Madhya Pradesh, 55 ballot units, 56 control units and 130 VVPATs were found to be faulty and changed during the fifth phase. EVM malfunction resulted in a delay of more than an hour at polling booths 40, 297 and 298, part of Sitamarhi constituency in Bihar. In Hajipur Lok Sabha constituency, a technical snag was reported at two booths. Four booths in Muzaffarpur — 4, 21, 88 and 89 — also reported EVM snags. West Bengal also witnessed faulty EVMs in booth numbers 212, 213, 163 and 288 of Hooghly constituency. There were reports of EVM malfunctioning at various polling booths in Amethi as well.

Even during the first level checks in Gujarat, on March 7, 3565 EVMs and 2594 VVPATs were found defective in Gujarat.

All in all, there were multiple EVM glitches across the nation during the election phases as well as during the result day. Notably, the Gujarat High Court (HC), on March 19, had dismissed a petition filed by advocate Khemchand Rajaram Koshti, about EVM malfunctioning and tamperability, citing that his apprehensions were “unfounded and unjustified.”  

Acting Chief Justice Anant S. Dave and Justice Biren Vaishnav in their judgement stated, “This Court shall be loath to sit in judgement over the assurance of a constitutional authority like the Election Commission Of India.” Not only that, they went on to say that the use of ballot papers is time consuming, prone to booth capturing and ballot box stuffing. Instead, EVM is much “simpler and voter-friendly.”

While the nation continues to fight for upholding the sanctity of the world’s largest democratic exercise, reports like these pose a severe threat on our foundational constitutional principles.