ECI issues new protocol for handling and storage of Symbol Loading Unit | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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ECI issues new protocol for handling and storage of Symbol Loading Unit

May 01, 2024 08:23 PM IST

The Election Commission of India said it has issued a new protocol for handling and storage of Symbol Loading Unit (SLU)

NEW DELHI: The Election Commission of India has issued a new protocol for handling and storage of the Symbol Loading Unit (SLU) in compliance with the Supreme Court’s directions, the poll watchdog said in a statement on Wednesday.

An electoral officer demonstrates the functioning of the EVMs and VVPATs to polling officials during a training programme for Lok Sabha elections in Gurugram. (ANI FILE)
An electoral officer demonstrates the functioning of the EVMs and VVPATs to polling officials during a training programme for Lok Sabha elections in Gurugram. (ANI FILE)

SLUs will need to be sealed and stored for 45 days after the declaration of election results. Currently, only three components of the electronic voting machine -- the ballot unit, the control unit, and the VVPAT (Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail) -- are stored for 45 days after the results.

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SLUs are matchbox-sized devices that are used to load symbols of the candidates on the VVPAT. To do that, before polling, the SLU is first connected to a computer to load the candidates’ names, serial numbers and party symbols, and is then connected to the VVPAT to transfer the file.

On April 26, the Supreme Court dismissed petitions that demanded 100% cross-verification of votes cast on EVMs with VVPATs but directed ECI that on completion of the symbol loading process in VVPATs undertaken on or after May 1, ECI should seal and secure these units in the presence of the candidates or their representatives. “The sealed containers, containing the symbol loading units, shall be kept in the strong room along with the EVMs at least for a period of 45 days post the declaration of results,” it said. 45 days is the maximum period for a losing candidate to move an election petition against an election outcome.

Earlier, the SLU was to be in the custody of the returning officer and was to be kept in the commissioning premises with proper security. After the commissioning process, “BEL/ECIL Supervisor shall hand over all the SLUs to the District Election Officer concerned. DEO will keep the SLUs received from them in their safe custody and return them to them or engineers authorised by the BEL/ECIL on the next day after poll i.e. P+1 Day,” as per EC’s older instructions.

Two state-run firms, Bharat Electronics Limited under the Ministry of Defence and Electronic Corporation of India Limited under the Department of Atomic Energy, manufacture the voting machines.

Under the new protocol, a day after polling (P+1), only the reserve SLUs are to be handed over to the authorised BEL/ECIL engineers while the used SLUs must be stored within the SLU Storage Room until the completion of counting of results. The SLU Storage Room can be opened only after “due invitation to candidates/their representatives”, and a record must be maintained in the SLU Inventory Register.

After votes are counted, the SLU containers must be stored in strong rooms of the respective assembly constituencies in a steel trunk along with polled EVMs under the overall responsibility of the DEO.

If no election petition is filed in the election petition period (45 days after the declaration of the results), the SLUs must be sent back to their respective manufacturers.

If an election petition is filed, and is not related to the EVM/VVPAT, an application must be filed before the concerned high court to release the EVMs and SLUs, and after getting permission from the court, the SLUs must be sent back to the respective manufacturers. If the petition is related to EVM/VVPAT, it can be sent back to the manufacturer only after the final disposal of the election petition.

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