Under fire from political parties over allegations of tampering in the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), the Election Commission today came out with an "open challenge" to hack its machines from first week of May.
The challenge is open to political parties and experts alike. While the Commission is yet to decide on the exact date, it said the challenge would be held in the first week of May and could continue for ten days.
This is the second time in a decade that the poll panel has come with an open challenge for anyone to demonstrate how EVMs can be tampered with. The last time such an event had taken place was in 2009 when 100 machines from different parts of the country were kept at Vigyan Bhawan. No one, EC claimed, could hack the electronic voting machines.
The commission had issued a communication on March 16, stating that during the “open challenge” in 2009, “in spite of opportunities given by ECI, machines opened and internal components shown, no one could demonstrate any tampering with the machine in the ECI headquarters”.
The EC said that the outcome of the 2009 exercise was that “none of the persons, who was given the opportunity, could demonstrate any tamperability of ECI-EVMs”.
When Delhi Chief Minister and AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal had met Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi with a complaint on EVMs last week, he was told that the poll panel is planning such an event.
This time, the venue could be Nirvachan Sadan, the EC headquarters.
The specifics would be decided by the Commission's technical expert committee on EVMs and the details would be made public in the next couple of days.
There is a strong possibility that EVMs used in the Uttar Pradesh polls could also be brought in for the challenge. BSP had alleged that tampered machines helped BJP win the polls.
As per rules, the machines cannot be taken out of the strong room for 40 days -- a period within which an aggrieved person can file an election petition before the high court concerned. That period will end later this month.
"From first week of May, experts, scientists, technocrats can come for a week or 10 days and try to hack the machines," an official source said.
They said the challenge will be open for a week or 10 days.
Political parties, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), have alleged EVM tampering in recently concluded Assembly polls in five states. AAP has demanded that the upcoming MCD elections in the capital must be carried out using paper ballots.
After the Assembly elections earlier this year in five states -- Uttar Pradesh, Uttrakhand, Goa, Punjab and Manipur, many political parties and candidates have raised their voice against the use of EVMs.
EVMs are being used in general and state elections to implement electronic voting in parts from 1999 elections and in total since 2004 elections.
An EVM can record a maximum of 3840 votes and can cater to a maximum of 64 candidates. There is provision for 16 candidates in a single balloting unit and up to a maximum of 4 units can be connected in parallel.
The AAP today sought an official communication from the Election Commission after it threw an "open challenge" to people to try hack its EVMs.
"Has the Election Commission issued a press release or an official statement? Is an attempt being made to plant such news before the MCD polls? We demand an official statement from the Election Commission on this," AAP leader Ashish Khetan said.