The functioning of Electronic Voting machines and their alleged manipulation has come under scrutiny in the wake of the questions raised by the Bharatiya Janata Party and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.
Rediff.com has highlighted many stories about the controversy surrounding the EVMs and the growing opposition to their usage. In a letter to rediff.com, a representative of Election commissioner Dr S Y Quraishi's office has clarified the EC's position over the matter, which is threatening to blow up into a major issue of national concern.
In response to the story published doubting the credibility of EVMs, EC Quraishi says, "The EVMs used in India are tamper proof. All EVMs are hard coded to take votes against a Candidate number only and are programmed to function exactly in the same manner. It is not possible to alter the functioning of EVM in any manner whatsoever by the manufacturers or in the field by election staff, as the program is hard coded and fused in the micro controller, which is one time programmable device. No gadgets, including remote means, can be used to alter the program/data stored in EVM. It is in this manner that the ECI's EVMs are wholly different from those used in other countries."
While denying the mismatch between Control unit and Ballot Unit, two crucial parts of EVMs, EC Quraishi said, "The embedded program in both the Control Unit and Ballot Unit are masked and cannot be read or altered and the program works on a specific hardware platform, which is specific to the voting machine. Any change in the program will be reflected as an error with tamper check. The program is verified for checksum validity whenever the unit is powered up. Any mismatch prohibits the machine from proceeding further and becomes inoperational."
EC Quraishi retreats that it is not possible to hack the machines. He explained, "Apart from that the transparent procedures followed during entire election process starting from manufacturing to the time of counting like first level checking of EVMs by the manufacturers, thereafter storing the EVMs in strong room, preparation of EVMs by the Returning Officer before the candidates or their agents, thereafter storing the EVMs in strong rooms in the presence of candidates or their agents, mock poll by Presiding Officers before the candidates or their agents just before actual poll, sealing and storing of polled EVMs in strong room in the presence of the candidates or their agents etc, it is not possible to taint or hack the EVMs".
The EC claims that the EVM used by the Commission is a reliable voting device introduced after technical evaluation by an 'Expert Committee' constituted by the Government of India in 1990. Use of EVMs has been proved to be fruitful as is evident from past elections.
EC Quaraishi also listed the past judgmnts in this regard. He said, "Many Courts including the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India have time and again appreciated the efficiency of EVM in many court cases. Attention, in this regard, is invited to the judgment of the Hon'ble High Court of Madras in WP No. 3346, 3633, 4417, 4454, 4466, 4945, 5077, 6038 and 6039 of 2001 dated 10.4.2001, (AIADMK and others Vs. Chief Election Commissioner and others) where the Hon'ble Court dismissed the writ challenging the introduction of EVMs. The petitioner's challenged this ruling of the Madras High Court before the Supreme Court in C.C.2824 and 2825/2001 which was dismissed by the Hon'ble Apex Court in its decision dated 23.4.2001 and the decision of the Madras High Court was upheld. Separately, the Hon'ble High Court of Kerala in E.P. No. 4 of 2001 (T.A.Ahammed Kabeer Vs A.A.Azeez and others) and Hon'ble High Court of Karnatka in E.P.No. 29 of 1999 ( Michael B. Fernandes Vs. C.K.Jaffar Sharif and others) have upheld the EVM as a safe and secure device for conduct of elections. The Hon'ble Karnataka High Court has hailed the EVM as 'a national pride' (judgement dated 5.2.2004 in Michael B Fernandes Vs. C.K.Jaffar Sharif and others in E.P.No. 29 of 1999)."