Picking up the gauntlet, the Election Commission on Saturday offered its EVMs for political parties to hack them, if possible, under a "Framework of Challenge" from June 3 but insisted that the machines cannot be tampered with in its custody.
Amid doubts raised about EVMs by political parties, the Commission held a demonstration of the EVMs equipped with VVPAT machines to prove its point that they cannot tampered with or manipulated either at the manufacturing stage or during polling, storing and counting.
Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi announced the schedule for the 'EVM Challenge' under a framework of conditions decided by the Commission. Those unable to prove their point will be dubbed to have failed the test.
He said it will be open to the national and state parties which took part in the recent elections in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur and claimed that the EVMs were tampered or could be tampered even under the poll panel's safeguards.
The exercise may last four-five days depending on the number of parties expressing interest. A decision will be taken whether to allow the media to witness it, he said.
The parties should prove their claims within the administrative and security protocols prescribed by the Commission at its headquarters from June 3, Zaidi said.
Any party which wants to join the challenge can confirm its participation by May 26. If its representatives fail to turn up on the appointed day and time, they will forfeit their right to take part in the challenge.
The 'Challenge Statement I' said the doubters should prove that the EVMs used in the five states were tampered to favour a candidate or a party by altering their results stored in the EVMs after the polls.
The claimants will have to alter the results in the Control Units used during these polls in exactly the same scenario as the EVMs remaining within the safeguards of the EC after the polls.
This covers the period of storage in strong rooms or during counting by pressing a combination of keys on Control Unit (CU) and Balloting Unit (BU) or by communication to CU or BU or both via external wireless or bluetooth or mobile phone.
'Challenge Statement II' asked the naysayers to prove that the EVMs used in the five states were tampered before or during polling.
The claimants will have to alter the results in the EVMs used during the polls in exactly the same scenario as the EVMs remain within the safeguards of the Commission before the poll in strongrooms or during polling.
Reacting to Zaidi's announcement, the AAP, whose leaders sought to demonstrate in the Delhi assembly that the machines can be hacked, said it will seek clarifications from the Commission on the proposed challenge. It did not say whether it will take part in the challenge.
Zaidi asserted that the machines can't be tampered with through external hardware -- wireless, WiFi, bluetooth device or mobile phones -- nor can they be manipulated at the manufacturing stage because of strict security protocol.
He said the results can't be altered by activating a Trojan Horse through a sequence of key presses because the micro-chip is programmed for one time use only.
The EVMs can't be physically tampered with nor their components be changed without anyone noticing, he said, adding the latest technological features make them tamper-proof with features like OTP micro-controllers, dynamic coding of key codes and other measures, he said.
Zaidi said the Commission does not use EVMs made abroad. These are produced through public sector manufacturers BEL in Bengaluru and ECIL in Hyderabad.
"The software programme code is written in-house by these two companies, not outsourced, is approved by the Technical Evaluation Committee of ECI and subjected to strict security procedures at factory level to maintain the highest levels of integrity."
The poll panel said each party can nominate up to three persons to take part in the challenge. However, EVMs involved in any election petition or ordered to be sealed by courts will not be available for the challenge.