The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Election Commission of India (ECI) to file in two weeks its response on a plea for probe into the allegations that EVMs were tampered with in the assembly polls earlier this year.
A bench comprising Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud was informed by the ECI’s advocate that similar matters filed by some political parties, including Mayawati-led BSP, was pending before another court in the apex court. The ECI said that notice has already been issued in the matters pending before a bench headed by Justice J Chelameswar and this plea should be tagged along with them.
Advocate M L Sharma, the petitioner in the case, opposed the ECI’s contention and said that his PIL was on a different subject matter and a political party cannot come before the court with a PIL. “My matter is completely different. He (ECI counsel) is misleading the court. Those petitions are filed by political parties. How was the PIL filed by political parties,” he said.
To this, the bench observed that “Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) are the subject matter of challenge. You say EVM is not good. It is the same thing.” Sharma, however, said the issue pending before another court also contained a prayer that in future elections, EVMs should have voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) attached with them, whereas he had not raised any such issue in his petition. “My subject matter is different. If the matters are clubbed, my petition will be destroyed,” he claimed.
The bench, however, asked the ECI to file its reply to the petition within two weeks and asked the petitioner to file a rejoinder to the response within two weeks thereafter. The apex court also tagged the plea with the petition pending before the other court.
The court had earlier asked the ECI to file its response on the plea which has sought investigation by software experts into the allegations that the EVMs were tampered with in the assembly polls held earlier this year. The PIL has also sought a direction to the Centre for registering an FIR to investigate the alleged tampering of EVMs “for vested interest by a political party and to file their report before the apex court”.
The plea has sought examination of “quality, software/malware and hacking effect in the EVMs from a reliable electronic lab/scientist and software expert and to file their report before this court for further action/prosecution”. The petitioner has also referred to the allegations of EVM tampering in the assembly elections held in five states, as well as the Maharashtra civic polls.
The PIL has claimed that it was admitted by the poll panel itself that EVMs were tamper-proof only till their technical, mechanical and software details remained a secret. “These details can be detected via reverse engineering by any expert. Wireless device/software can be prepared via reverse engineering, and with their help voting records can be changed in any location and at any time,” it has claimed.