The Election Commission will meet representatives of all recognised political parties on Friday to dispel doubts about the security features of electronic voting machines (EVM) and discuss modalities of a hackathon that will be hosted later this month.
The meeting is part of the poll panel’s outreach to dismiss allegations that EVMs were manipulated to suit the ruling dispensation.
At the hackathon—the date for which is expected to be announced—party representatives will be given a chance to prove that the EVMs used by the EC can be tampered with.
After allegations by parties such as BSP and AAP that the EVMs used in the five assembly polls in February–March were manipulated to benefit the BJP, 13 parties marched to the EC to register their lack of faith in the EVMs and demanding the use of paper ballots.
A day before the meeting, AAP threw a fresh challenge to the poll panel, saying that given a chance it could prove how voting machines used in the assembly polls were pre-programmed to favour one party.
AAP MLA Saurabh Bharadwaj, an IT engineer, used a lookalike machine in Delhi Assembly on Tuesday and claimed to have demonstrated how EVMs could be manipulated by tampering with its code and changing its motherboard.
The opposition parties had also conveyed their concerns to President Pranab Mukherjee.
The Election Commission too has repeatedly asserted that the EVMs cannot be tampered with.
Amid concerns raised by the opposition, the Union Cabinet last month cleared the Election Commission’s proposal to buy VVPAT machines for the EVMs to ensure transparency in the voting process.
The proposal involves getting 16,15,000 VVPAT units for EVMs at a cost of around Rs 3,173.47 crore for use in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Also on the agenda for Friday’s meeting is the EC’s proposal to make bribery and undue influence during elections a cognisable offence.
The Commission has suggested amendment to make the penal provisions in this regard more stringent. It has proposed inserting a new section, 58B, in the Representation of People Act (RP Act) to take “appropriate action, including countermanding of election, in the event of incidents of bribery of electors”.
The EC will also discuss the proposal for disqualification on framing of charges for the offence of bribery in elections. As of now, Section 8 of the RP Act, 1951, provides for disqualification on conviction for the offences mentioned in sub-sections (1), (2) and (3) of that section.
The poll panel has recommended disqualification even prior to conviction by a court in the case of serious offences. It wants for offences punishable by imprisonment of five years or more for a case registered at least six months earlier, disqualification should commence from the stage the charges
Views of the political parties will also be sought on recounting rules, use of VVPAT machines and transparency in political funding.
To prevent the inflow of illegal money into the political system, the Commission has proposed that donations in cash should not exceed Rs 20 crore or 20% of the total donations in a year, whichever is less. For donations received in cash, it has proposed that income tax exemption should be restricted to Rs 20 crore or 20% of the total donation received by the party, whichever is less.
(With IANS inputs)