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EVM challenge underway at EC office; NCP, CPI(M) yet to try hand at hacking machines

NCP and CPI(M) have been provided with four EVMs each brought to Delhi from Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand where they were deployed in the recently-held assembly polls.

India TV Politics Desk, New Delhi [ Published on: June 03, 2017 14:23 IST ]
EVM machine
EVM machine

The EVM challenge is presently going on at the New Delhi office of Election Commission with the two participating political parties – NCP and CPI(M) -  yet to try their hand at hacking the electronic voting machines till 1pm, when reports last came in. 

The four-hour challenge began at 10 am. While the CPI(M) delegation watched a demonstration on the various security checks involved with the machines, the NCP team interacted with Commission’s technical committee of experts. 

The two parties have been provided with four EVMs each brought to Delhi from Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand where they were deployed in the recently-held assembly polls.  

The challenge was organised after several major opposition parties had claimed that the faith of people in the machines has eroded due to allegations of tampering. 

 
The EC has maintained that EVMs are tamper-proof.  The BSP and the AAP had alleged that the machines used in the recent assembly elections were tampered with and favoured the BJP. Later, several other parties had joined the chorus and wanted the EC to revert to paper ballots. 

The Commission has pulled out from its strong rooms in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Uttarakhand electronic voting machines used in the recent assembly polls there for the challenge. 

The NCP and the CPI (M) were the only parties which had applied to participate in the challenge. 

The poll panel had invited the seven national and 49 state parties recognised by it for the challenge. It had left out smaller parties and Independents who had contested the recent polls from participating. 

Even foreign experts are barred. 

Members of a technical committee, which helps the EC evaluate the EVMs, would judge the proceedings.

While seven national parties and 49 state parties had been invited to the ECM challenge, only NCP and CPI-M have applied to participate.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) will conduct its own ‘hackathon’ today as its request for an ‘open hackathon’ was rejected by the Election Commission.

The Election Commission (EC) is holding the EVM challenge today after a plea questioning the constitutionality of the EC move was rejected by the Uttarakhand High Court on Friday.

The High Court also barred all political parties, individuals, media and even social media networks, like Facebook and Twitter, from criticising the use of EVMs in the recently conducted assembly polls, Times of India reported. 

"All recognised national and state parties, other political parties, NGOs, individuals, in larger public interest, are restrained from criticising the use of EVMs in the recently concluded elections and cannot approach print, electronic media, radio, Facebook or Twitter with criticism of any kind,” TOI quoted the two-judge bench of Justices Sharad Kumar Sharma and Rajiv Sharma as saying.

Uttarakhand state congress committee vice-president Ramesh Pandey had filed a PIL in the High Court requesting  quashing of the EC's EVM challenge by saying that it was  "illegal, ultra vires, unconstitutional and beyond the jurisdiction of Article 324".

Rejecting his plea,  the High Court bench said  "The EC has successfully held free and fair elections. We cannot permit political parties to lower the image and prestige of the constitutional body. The uncalled-for criticism of the Election Commission has a deleterious effect on its functioning and the same may result in lowering of its morale. The faith of people in the election process is required to be restored at all cost. Holding of free and fair election is a basic feature of the Constitution." 

"The EVM challenge is on as scheduled. The NCP and the CPI-M have nominated three persons each for the challenge," a Commission spokesperson said on Friday evening.
He said the two parties will get separate halls to try and tamper with the machines. The challenge will take place between 10 am and 2 pm. 

The challenge was organised after several major opposition parties had claimed that the faith of people in the machines has eroded. 

The BSP and the AAP had alleged that the machines used in the recent assembly elections were tampered with and favoured the BJP. Later, several other parties had joined the chorus and wanted the EC to revert to paper ballots. 

The Commission has pulled out from its strong rooms in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Uttarakhand 14 electronic voting machines used in the recent assembly polls there for the challenge. 

The NCP and the CPI-M were the only parties which had applied to participate in the challenge. The poll panel had invited the seven national and 49 state parties recognised by it for the challenge. It had left out smaller parties and Independents who had contested the recent polls from participating. Even foreign experts are barred. 

Since the two parties had not given their preference for the EVMs they would like to tamper with during the challenge, the Commission has brought to Delhi 14 machines -- from Ghaziabad and Gautam Buddha Nagar in UP, Patiala and Bhatinda from Punjab and Dehradun from Uttarakhand. 

While each participating party can use a maximum of four EVMs for the challenge, sources in the commission said extra machines were also kept as back up keeping in mind any eventuality. 

The challengers will get four hours each to tamper with the machines. The challenge will begin at 10 am and end at 2 pm.

Members of a technical committee which helps the EC evaluate the EVMs would judge the proceedings. 

Announcing the contours of the 'EVM challenge', the EC had said it has been divided into two parts. First, the parties will have to prove that the EVMs used in the assembly elections in the five states were tampered with to favour a particular candidate or political party by altering the results stored in them. 

The claimants will have to alter the results in the control units used during these polls in exactly the same conditions in which EVMs remain under the technical and administrative safeguards of the EC after elections. 

They can use a combination of keys on EVMs or over the air communication devices such as cellphone and bluetooth to tamper with the machine to change the results, he said. 

Under part two of the challenge, the participants will have to prove that the EVMs used in the assembly polls were manipulated before or on the poll day. 

The participant would be considered to have "failed" the challenge if the EVM stops functioning due its inbuilt anti-tampering mechanism. 

Also, the challenger would be considered to have failed if it showed the result of the booth where it was used during the assembly polls even after manipulation. 

(With agency inputs)

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