EC failed to provide substantive response to ‘genuine concerns’ over EVMs: Jairam Ramesh

Ramesh has written to Rajiv Kumar over the EC's response to his earlier letter in which the poll watchdog had dismissed the Congress leader's concerns on VVPATs.

New Delhi: Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh has said the Election Commission has yet again failed to provide a “substantive response” to INDIA parties’ genuine concerns over EVMs and asserted that instead, the poll watchdog has been repeatedly directing them to “generic FAQS” as the answer book for all queries.

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Ramesh has written to Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar over the Election Commission’s response to his earlier letter in which the poll watchdog had dismissed the Congress leader’s concerns on VVPATs.

“I had made an express request for an appointment for the INDIA parties’ leaders with the Hon’ble Commission. I had even specified the agenda for the appointment discussion and suggestions on the usage of VVPATs for the upcoming elections,” the Congress leader said in his letter dated January 7.

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“The Election Commission’s response, while completely brushing aside our request for an appointment, has yet again failed to provide a substantive response to our queries and genuine concerns over EVMs. Instead, the Commission has been repeatedly directing us to generic ECI FAQs as the answer book for all queries in respect of EVMs and VVPATS,” Ramesh said.

Yet, when the Commission was informed that concerns remain unaddressed by the FAQs, the panel, instead of offering clarification, labelled the queries as based on an “inadequate or incorrect” appreciation of FAQs and EVM resource material, he said.

“This illustrates and underscores exactly why we have been asking the Commission for an audience, to discuss these unresolved and legitimate queries. Your point blank refusal to even engage with political participants on EVMs or VVPATs, is a matter of grave concern for all political parties and not just those who belong to the INDIA alliance,” Ramesh said.

He said that it is also surprising to note that the Commission has been taking refuge behind judicial orders while also reminding us that Public Interest Litigations filed on the issue of EVMs and VVPATs have been dismissed with monetary costs.

Be that as it may, these litigations have no bearing on the queries raised, Ramesh contended.

Furthermore, the Commission is well aware that the pendency of any judicial proceedings pertaining to VVPATs, does not bar the Commission from discussing or hearing the suggestions of INDIA parties, he argued.

“In fact, there is no judicial order which restrains this Commission from meeting the INDIA Parties’ leaders on the issue of EVMs or VVPATS,” Ramesh said.

“This request is being made on behalf of the INDIA parties, which have given our country prime ministers, chief ministers and a very large number of distinguished political leaders. INDIA parties commanded over 60% of the popular vote in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Yet the Commission continues to deny these parties an opportunity to meet with it. This is most unfortunate and to put it very mildly, unprecedented,” he said.

“Therefore, with the upcoming General Elections scheduled to be held soon, I once again respectfully request the Commission meet with a small delegation of INDIA parties and at least listen to what it has to say on the issue of VVPATS,” Ramesh said.

Dismissing Ramesh’s concerns on the VVPATs, the Election Commission on Friday said it raised “no new assertions or reasonable and legitimate doubts which require further clarifications”, adding the rules governing paper slips were introduced by the grand old party-led government in 2013.

In a communication to Ramesh, the poll body also expressed “full faith in the use of the EVMs in the elections” and made it clear that the latest updated Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) answer “adequately and comprehensively” all reasonable and legitimate aspects on the use of the EVMs in Indian elections.

Ramesh had written to the Election Commission on December 30 last year, requesting that a delegation of the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) be given an appointment to put forth their views on the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips.

The opposition alliance had at a meeting on December 19 voiced doubts about the integrity of functioning of the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and wanted the VVPAT slips to be handed over to voters, who could drop it in a separate box.

The opposition alliance had also demanded 100 per cent matching of the slips and EVMs.

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