EVM Row: Mumbai poll officer rejects OTP theory, defamation notice to newspaper - 10 key points

  • A fresh political slugfest erupted on Sunday over EVM tampering claims in Mumbai North West Lok Sabha constituency where Shiv Sena candidate won by just 48 votes, even as the returning officer rejected EVM-OTP theory.

Pratik Prashant Mukane
Updated16 Jun 2024, 09:54 PM IST
Election officials and polling agents are counting the EVM votes in Mumbai. (File Photo)
Election officials and polling agents are counting the EVM votes in Mumbai. (File Photo)

The returning officer in Mumbai North West Lok Sabha constituency on Sunday rejected the EVM tampering claim, saying Electronic Voting Machine is a stand-alone device and there is no OTP on a mobile for unlocking as it is non-programmable.

The election officer's remark comes amid allegations that a relative of Ravindra Waikar, the Shiv Sena candidate from Mumbai North West Lok Sabha constituency, who won the election by just 48 votes, was found using a mobile phone "connected" to an electronic voting machine during the counting of votes on June 4.

Also Read: Mumbai MP Waikar's kin booked for using phone to 'unlock EVM'; Opposition says EC 'refused to share CCTV footage'

After Ravindra Waikar emerged as the winner by a thin margin of just 48 votes, opposition Sena (UBT) candidate Amol Kirtikar alleged foul play and claimed that his request for recounting was not accepted.

On Sunday, a Mid-Day report said that a relative of Waikar was using a phone which was connected to the Electronic Voting Machine (EVMs). The report further quoted police saying that the mobile phone was used for generating the OTP that unlocked the EVM machine.

Also Read: Rahul Gandhi backs Elon Musk’s concern on voting machine, says EVMs in India are a ’black box’

Here are key developments

FIR against Waikar's Kin

The Vanrai police have booked Mangesh Pandilkar — a relative of Shiv Sena MP Shiv Ravindra Waikar — for using a mobile phone at a counting centre in Goregaon on June 4.

Returning officer rejects OTP theory

Vandana Suryavanshi, the returning officer of the constituency, asserted that the EVM is a standalone system, not programmable and has no wireless communication capabilities.

Notice to Mid-Day

Dismissing the report in the 'Mid-Day' newspaper as “false news”, Vandana Suryavanshi said a defamation notice has been issued to the publication.

"We have issued notice to 'Mid-Day' newspaper under sections 499, 505 of the Indian Penal Code for defamation and spreading false news," Suryavanshi said in a press conference.

Returning officer's response

1) Incidence at Mumbai North West Constituency Counting Centre is about unauthorisedly using mobile phone of an authorised person by a candidate's aide. Criminal case has already been filed by the Returning Officer.

(2) There is no OTP(One Time Password) on mobile for unlocking EVM as it is non programmable and it has no wireless communication capabilities. It is a complete lie being spread by a newspaper, which is being used by some leaders to create false narrative.

(3) EVMs are stand alone devices without any wired or wireless connectivity with units outside EVM system. Advanced technical features and robust administrative safeguards are in place to rule out any possibility of manipulation. Safeguards include conducting everything in the presence of candidates or their agents.

(4) Counting of ETPBS happens in physical form (paper ballots) and not electronics as being spread through false narratives.

(5) Every counting sheet at every table for ETPBS and EVM counting and postal ballot counting (including ETPBS) is signed by all counting agents after due diligence.

(6) RO is proceeding against Mid-day newspaper for spreading rumours maligning Indian voters and the electoral system.

Mumbai cops deny media report

Terming the media reports as fake and baseless, Mumbai police said that no such information (about a mobile phone being used to generate OTP to unlock EVM) was given by any official.

“A case has been registered at Vanrai Police Station for allowing an individual to use a mobile phone illegally, despite the prohibition on the use of mobile phones and electronic items at the counting station. While the case is still under investigation, some English & Marathi news media published news stating ‘To unlock EVM, a mobile phone was used to generate OTP’. No such information is released to any newspaper by the Mumbai Police. Therefore, such news articles are false & misleading,” said Mumbai Police.

Political slugfest over Elon Musk's tweet

Responding to a post by Robert F. Kennedy Jr, the independent candidate for President of the United States over alleged voting irregularities related to EVMs in Puerto Rico’s primary elections, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said, “We should eliminate electronic voting machines. The risk of being hacked by humans or AI, while small, is still too high.”

Rahul Gandhi reacts to Elon Musk's tweet

Tagging media report which claimed that a relative of Shiv Sena's candidate Ravindra Waikar had a phone that unlocks an EVM, Rahul Gandhi responded to Elon Musk's tweet and said, "EVMs in India are a 'black box', and nobody is allowed to scrutinise them. Serious concerns are being raised about transparency in our electoral process. Democracy ends up becoming a sham and prone to fraud when institutions lack accountability.

Ex-minister counters

Former Union minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar of the BJP countered Musk's criticism of EVMs and said that the billionaire businessman's view may apply to the US and other places where they use regular computer platforms to build "Internet-connected voting machines".

Shiv Sena leaders demand footage of counting day

Shiv Sena (UBT) leaders Aditya Thackeray and Priyanka Chaturvedi also shared the Mid-Day report and demanded that the CCTV footage of the counting day be released.

Suryavanshi said CCTV footage in connection with the issue cannot be given unless there are orders from the competent court, reported PTI.

More questions than answers, says Priyanka Chaturvedi

Reacting to Vandana Suryavanshi's press conference, Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Priyanka Chaturvedi said that the Returning Officer is implicating the election office further rather than bring transparency. "Many more questions arise from Vandana Suryawanshi's conference rather than get answers regarding the process for Mumbai North West election result,” she said. 

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First Published:16 Jun 2024, 09:54 PM IST
HomeNewsIndiaEVM Row: Mumbai poll officer rejects OTP theory, defamation notice to newspaper - 10 key points

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