Public interest litigation filed by one Manoranjan Roy has revealed that as per companies that manufacture EVMs (electronic voting machines), some 20 lakh machines that they delivered to the Election Commission of India (ECI) over a period of time are not in its possession.
Roy claimed to have filed several queries under the Right to Information Act before the ECI as well as Bharat Electronics Limited, Bangalore, and Electronic Corporation of India Ltd, Hyderabad. Based on these queries, Roy concluded that a huge fraud is being committed in the manufacture and supply of EVMs along with control unit, balloting unit and VVPATs.
In other words, the petitioner claimed that the ECI was in possession of a huge number of extra machines without disclosing a reason for the same. Roy sought an investigation in the matter and also a stay on the use of EVMs until this matter is pending.
In a reply dated May 22, 2017, the ECI stated that from the year 1989-90 to 2013-14, the commission received 10,05,662 balloting units and 9,28,049 control units from Bharat Electronics Limited, Bangalore (BEL). Whereas, 10,14,644 balloting units along with 9,34,031 control units were received between 1989-90 and 2016-17 from Electronic Corporation of India Limited, Hyderabad (ECIL).
However, in a reply dated January 2, 2018, BEL stated that 19,69,932 EVMs were sent to the ECI between 1989-90 and 2014-15. ECIL's response to the RTI query was dated September 16, 2017, and in that it stated that 19,44,593 EVMs were supplied to the ECI.
Therefore, over a period of some 24-25 years, the ECI has not received a total of 9,64,270 EVMs that BEL claims to have been delivered and 9,29,949 EVMs that ECIL affirms to have been delivered.
Referring to the cost of each machine specified in the replies of ECI and the manufacturers, and the discrepancies therein, the petitioner concluded that a total of Rs.116.55 crore was not accounted for.
After an article entitled "Missing EVMs" was published by Frontline magazine, Sheyphali Sharan, spokesperson of the Election Commission of India, said: "It is clarified that there is no truth in contention that 20 lakh EVMs are missing. The news report is based on inaccurate & specious misinterpretation of partial facts obtained through RTI from multiple Public Authorities."
Although the PIL was filed in March last year, it came up for hearing only in September 2018. On March 8, 2019, the ECI filed its reply stating every EVM and VVPAT has a unique serial number of identification and that they were purchased by the commission as per sanction received from the Law Ministry. However, the discrepancies between EVMs supplied and received were not addressed at all.
Thereafter the court asked the ECI to file another reply by April 23 addressing the queries raised, but no reply was filed.
Finally on April 23, the matter came up before Chief Justice Pradeep Nadrajog and Justice NM Jamdar and the court asked the Election Commission to file a reply within four weeks and listed the matter for hearing post vacations on July 17.
Although Roy has filed a special leave petition before the Supreme Court seeking directions to the HC to expedite the case, the apex court is yet to hear his plea.