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PIL in Uttarakhand HC seeking stay on EVM hackathon

PIL in Uttarakhand HC seeking stay on EVM hackathon
A PIL has been filed in the Uttarakhand High Court seeking a stay on the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) hacking challenge organised by the Election Commission scheduled for Saturday, June 3. The implication of the court's observations wasn't immediately clear. A judgment is expected later this evening.

The PIL was filed in view of political parties challenging the Election Commission to a hackathon to provide proof to their claims that the voting machines are rigged to favour a single party.

Seeing the BJP's unprecedented victories across polls in the country, parties such as the NCP and the CPI (M) had planned to participate in the EC's open hacking challenge while the AAP, who had earlier been at the forefront of the protest against EVMs, pulled out of the challenge alleging unfair rules.

Responding to AAP's allegations, the poll watchdog had clarified last week in a statement it had never made a 'promise' or announced anything about a 'no-holds barred Hackathon' when it had announced the EVM hacking challenge.

The same court had earlier asked for voting machines used in the Uttarakhand election to be sequestered after Congress candidates complained that the result was gamed against them. Today's warning to the Election Commission against its plans for tomorrow is based on a case filed by a Congressman, Dr Ramesh Pandey, who says the Commission does not have the authority to conduct the event.

So far, these are the arrangements made for the hackathon. A total of 14 Electronic Voting Machines or EVMs will be made available to representatives of Sharad Pawar's party and the Left who hope to prove that the Election Commission is wrong and that the equipment used by it can be gamed, as alleged by a series of political outfits including the Congress and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party or AAP after Prime Minister Narendra Modi front-lined his party's gigantic wins in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

AAP, which has accused the Election Commission of colluding with the BJP to rig results in its favour, has announced that it will hold a parallel hackathon of its own tomorrow. The machine it will make available to techies and others is the one that was used by the party in the Delhi Assembly last month in a televised demonstration of its manipulation. The Election Commission said the machine used was a far cry from the real thing and rejected the result.

At the Election Commission's event, hackers will get five hours - from 10 am to 2 pm - and access to four machines each. The other EVMs will be kept as back up.

The Election Commission has said its challenge has two parts - the hackers will have to prove that the EVMs used in the five states that just voted including Uttar Pradesh and Punjab were manipulated to favour a particular candidate or political party by altering the results stored in them.

Part Two of the challenge calls for participants to prove that the machines used in the assembly polls were manipulated before or on the day of voting.

The participant will be considered "failed" if the EVM stops functioning as a result of its inbuilt defense mechanism against tampering.

The participants - three members per party - can "physically examine" EVMs and check circuits, chips and motherboard, but cannot replace any part. Arvind Kejriwal's party had asked for these restrictions to be removed, claiming it "would not be possible to tamper with the machines without giving people a free hand to do so."


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