EVM row: 'No OTP required to unlock voting machine,' says Mumbai poll official | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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EVM row: 'No OTP required to unlock voting machine,' says Mumbai poll official

Jun 16, 2024 08:12 PM IST

The poll official said that a notice has been issued to Mid-day newspaper for defamation and spreading false news.

A poll official on Sunday dismissed rejected a news report that claimed a kin of the winning Shiv Sena candidate in Mumbai had a phone that “unlocked” EVM. Vandana Suryavanshi, returning officer of Mumbai North West Lok Sabha constituency, said that an EVM is a standalone system that does not need an OTP to unlock it.

Vandana Suryavanshi, returning officer of Mumbai North West Lok Sabha constituency.(ANI)
Vandana Suryavanshi, returning officer of Mumbai North West Lok Sabha constituency.(ANI)

The poll officer was responding to a report in Mid-day newspaper about a kin of Shiv Sena candidate Ravindra Waikar, who emerged victorious from the seat by a margin of just 48 votes, using a mobile phone connected to an EVM during vote counting on June 4.

“There is no OTP (one-time password) on mobile for unlocking EVM as it is non-programmable and it has no wireless communication capabilities,” Suryavanshi said. “It is a complete lie being spread by a newspaper, which is being used by some leaders to create false narrative.”

She also said that a notice has been issued to Mid-day newspaper under sections 499, 505 of the Indian Penal Code for defamation and spreading false news.

The polling official maintained that EVMs are standalone devices without any wired or wireless connectivity with units outside its system.

“Advanced technical features and robust administrative safeguards are in place to rule out any possibility of manipulation,” she said. “Safeguards include conducting everything in the presence of candidates or their agents.”

Mangesh Pandilkar, brother-in-law of Waikar, was booked on Wednesday for allegedly using a mobile phone at a counting centre on June 4, when results of the general elections were announced.

A police official said the mobile phone has been sent to forensics to examine call records and verify if it was used for other purposes, according to the Mid-day report.

“Pandilkar was booked on the complaint of polling personnel Dinesh Gurav. An independent candidate noticed the former using a mobile phone despite a ban on such devices at the counting centre and alerted the returning officer,” an unidentified police officer told PTI. "The RO in turn approached Vanrai police," he said. Pandilkar has been booked under Indian Penal Code section 188 (disobeying official order)."

Opposition questions EVMs

Citing the Mid-day report, several leaders of the Opposition raised questions regarding the transparency in India's electoral process.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said that EVMs in India are a "black box" which nobody is allowed to scrutinise.

"Democracy ends up becoming a sham and prone to fraud when institutions lack accountability," he wrote on X.

Shiv Sena (UBT) MP Priyanka Chaturvedi termed the incident as ‘fraud’ at the highest level and questioned the Election Commission over it.

"This is a fraud at the highest level and yet the @ECISVEEP continues to sleep… If ECI doesn’t step in this will be the biggest election result scam after Chandigarh Mayor election and will see this battle in the courts. This brazenness has to be punished," Shiv Sena (UBT) MP Priyanka Chaturvedi posted on X.

Sena UBT leader Aditya Thackeray said: “Surprisingly, or not, the Entirely Compromised- election commission, has refused to share CCTV footage of the counting centre. I guess it’s trying to avoid another Chandigarh moment.”

To this, Maharashtra chief minister Eknath Shinde said that he wonderes if doubts were being raised over EVM’s sanctity only because the winner belongs to his party.

“Why are questions being raised about the outcome of only Mumbai North West constituency and not any other result in the state? Is it because my candidate, Waikar, won and theirs lost,” Shinde asked.

Meanwhile, separately, Tesla chief Elon Musk sparked a debate by questioning the security of EVMs. “We should eliminate electronic voting machines. The risk of being hacked by humans or AI, while small, is still too high,” he posted on X.

BJP leader and former Union minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar, however, responded to Musk's tweet arguing that securing digital hardware is achievable. He even offered Musk a tutorial on how to design and build secure electronic voting machines.

Musk, however, doubled down on his concerns saying: “Anything can be hacked”.

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