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EC to soon procure tamper-proof EVMs

The Madhya Pradesh government on Saturday removed the District Collector and Superintendent of Bhind after a controversial video of a dummy test of an electronic voting in Bhind ahead of the by-election went viral on social media. Interestingly, the Election Commission is set to buy next generation EVMs that become "inoperable" the moment attempts are made to tinker with it, a move which comes amid claims by some parties that the machines were tampered with during the recent assembly polls.

The 'M3'-type electronic voting machines (EVMs) are also equipped with a self-diagnostic system for authentication of the genuineness of the machines.

These will come with a public key interface-based mutual authentication system.

Only a "genuine" EVM – manufactured either by atomic energy PSU ECIL or defence PSU BEL – "communicates" with other EVMs in the field.

Any EVM manufactured by other companies would not be able to communicate with other machines, thus exposing it.

Around Rs 1,940 crore (excluding freight and taxes) will be required to procure the new machines which are likely to be introduced by 2018, a year before when the next Lok Sabha elections are due, the Law Ministry has said, quoting details made available by the Election Commission to be given to Parliament.

The Election Commission has decided to replace 9,30,430 EVMs purchased before 2006 as the older machines are nearing their 15-year life cycle, he said.

On December 7 last, the Union Cabinet had approved a fresh tranche of Rs 1,009 crore for the Election Commission to buy new EVMs so that it can phase out the ageing ones before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

The Cabinet had also authorised the Election Commission to vary the quantity to be ordered on BEL and ECIL based on their production capacity and past performance.

On July 20 last, a similar Election Commission proposal to buy nearly 14 lakh new EVMs – the first tranche – at a cost of Rs 9,200 crore during 2016-17 was approved by the Union Cabinet.

In a written reply in the Rajya Sabha on Friday, the Law Ministry had said that EC has not purchased a single new machine in the last three fiscals.

Minister of State for Law P P Chaudhary had said that the poll panel has informed the government that it had not procured any electronic voting machine during 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17.

In a related development the Election Commission on Sunday said that the Aam Admi Party is free to file an election petition in the state high court if it wants to verify votes cast in Punjab polls with data of paper trail.

In a strongly-worded letter, the EC also said it is for the AAP "to introspect as to why your party could not perform as per your expectations and it is unfair on your part to attribute unsatisfactory poll performance of your party to the alleged tamperability of EVMS."
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