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The Election Commission (EC) on Friday gave a clean chit to the EVM and VVPAT machines used during a demonstration exercise at Bhind in Madhya Pradesh last week.
A probe headed by the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of Andhra Pradesh found no evidence of tampering in the voting machine and paper audit trail machine used on March 31, the EC said in a statement. The accuracy of the two machines “is beyond doubt”, it added.
The EVM used in the Bhind trial had triggered a controversy after a video purportedly showed that the machine registered votes in favour of the BJP even though state CEO Saleena Singh had pressed the button for Samajwadi Party. The EC had immediately dispatched an inquiry team headed by Andhra CEO Bhanwar Lal to Bhind amid allegations of EVM tampering by the AAP.
The final report of the inquiry, however, dismissed AAP’s accusation. According to the data retrieved from the control unit of the EVM used in Bhind, the poll officer had first pressed button number three on the ballot unit, followed by button number four, then three and lastly, one. For each of the buttons pressed, the VVPAT dispensed slips with the poll symbol ‘hand pump’, ‘lotus’, ‘hand pump’ and hand, respectively. As per the probe, the paper audit trail machine did not dispense multiple slips with the ‘lotus’ symbol.
“Therefore, it is clear that on pressing of various buttons on EVMs during the demonstration, corresponding symbols were displayed,” said the EC statement.
The inquiry, however, found that there was a lapse on the part of the poll officers as they did not delete the names of the candidates, who contested elections from Kanpur constituency in Uttar Pradesh, from the VVPAT used in Bhind. As per procedure, the poll officers should have deleted the data loaded on the VVPAT, sourced from Kanpur, before using it for the demonstration in Bhind.
“During a demonstration, poll officers use dummy candidates with dummy symbols to test the accuracy of voting and VVPAT machines. However, since the pre-loaded data of Kanpur seat was not deleted from the VVPAT, it dispensed slips with poll symbols of the Kanpur candidates corresponding to the button pressed on the ballot unit of the EVM,” said an EC official.
The report has suggested that the commission may fix responsibility with either the District Election Officer or Returning Officer for the above lapse.
Responding to Congress’s complaint regarding EC’s decision to source VVPAT machines from UP, the commission said, “Bringing the VVPAT from UP is not in violation of law. As per the law, only the EVMs used in the poll and the VVPAT slips contained in the box are required to be preserved for the period of 45 days in a secured manner for the purpose of election petition, if any. There is no bar on the movement of VVPAT machines… In this case, however, further precaution was taken to move only the reserve VVPATs used as substitutes during poll on which no restriction applies.”