Reminder letter on serious irregularities in conduct of Lok Sabha General Elections 2019

19 November 2019

Shri Sunil Arora, Chief Election Commissioner                                     

Shri Ashok Lavasa, Election Commissioner

Shri Sushil Chandra, Election Commissioner

Election Commission of India

Nirvachan Sadan

New Delhi, India

Sub:- Your Silence on Issues Raised with Regards to Serious Irregularities in the Conduct of Lok Sabha General Elections, 2019

Ref:- Our letter dated 2 July 2019 and reminders dated 20 July 2019 and 10 August 2019

  1. Please refer to the letter dated 2nd July 2019 on the above subject of addressed to you by 64 former civil servants and endorsed by 83 veterans of the defense services, academics, and other concerned citizens. Subsequent reminders have been sent as indicated above.

 

  1. Your failure to respond to any of the points raised in the letter and reminders, or to even acknowledge their receipt, leads us to wonder whether we will ever receive a response.

 

  1. The issues raised are critical for the well-being and proper functioning of our democratic republic. Our group has been in touch with your predecessor, Shri O.P. Rawat, on a number of issues related to the conduct of elections. As a group of former civil servants, many of whom have been associated with election processes over the past six decades, we consider it our duty to work with the Election Commission of India (ECI) to address the doubts that have arisen in the public mind about the impartiality and fairness of our electoral processes.

 

  1. Many of these questions would have been avoided if the ECI, currently under your stewardship, had accepted the principle of agent transparency vis-à-vis its principal, which, in this case, is the people of India. So, disclosure should be the rule rather than the exception. All information relating to the conduct of elections should be open to the public except where specifically needing to be exempted. Even when disclosure of some information is exempted, the criteria for keeping it confidential must be made public and transparent.

 

  1. We do not believe that there is any justification for the ECI not displaying on its web site:

 

  • the Parliament Constituency-wise, Assembly segment-wise, and polling station-wise figures of (a) votes polled in EVMs [i.e. other than postal ballots] and (b) votes as counted in EVMs. Ideally, there should be no discrepancies between the two sets of figures.

 

  • details of the 5 polling stations chosen as ‘samples’ for each Assembly segment, and the polling station-wise figures of (a) EVM electronic count and (b) VVPAT manual count. Ideally, there should be no discrepancies between these two sets of figures also.

 

But there have been extensive media reports about large-scale discrepancies in respect of both (i) and (ii) above. While we are aware that media reports may not always be correct, the ECI has failed the test of transparency by not disclosing the above sets of its figures on its web site, thereby paving the way for an adverse presumption being drawn in this matter.

 

In the interests of transparency and electoral integrity, we call upon the ECI to

 

  • immediately display on its web site, the figures indicated in (i) and (ii) above;
  • disclose the ‘decision rules’, if any, of the ECI about manual counting in the event of discrepancies of either type occurring;
  • disclose if there were any occasions to apply these decision rules during the recently concluded Parliamentary Elections.

 

  1. Even while our letter of 2nd July 2019 was waiting for some kind of a response from you, various media reports have appeared, suggesting that
    1. unauthorized private engineers had access to the EVM and VVPAT machines in the General Elections, 2019;
    2. Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) and Electronics Corporation of India (ECIL) Ltd. have refused to provide information in response to to RTI queries on EVMs and VVPATs even after having collected the fees for the same, though we understand that now the RTI first appellate authority has directed the ECIL to provide the information while the BEL first appellate authority for RTI has directed them to transfer the queries relating to the number of EVMs and VVPATs deployed for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections to the ECI.

Clearly, the issues relating to the EVM and VVPAT machines are yet to be resolved satisfactorily, and the ECI, under your stewardships, needs to put this controversy to rest. Recent reports also seem to suggest that a programme installed in the VVPAT can access VVPAT memories and alter the input to the Control Unit, thereby manipulating the people’s mandate. To set at rest doubts in the public mind, we suggest a social audit of the functioning of the EVM and VVPAT machines used in the recent Lok Sabha General Elections. Social audits are an accepted tool in all democracies and, even in our country, we have used them to monitor the functioning of various social sector programmes. We are ready to work with you in the organization and  conduct of such a social audit.

 

  1. To conduct such a Social Audit,we propose as follows:

 

  1. Access to the entire electoral records, including EVM and VVPAT machines used in 20 select Lok Sabha Constituencies (representing merely 3.6% of the total Lok Sabha constituencies), in the recently concluded General Elections, 2019, be provided to a Social Audit Group, comprising three representatives each of civil society representatives (which will include members of our group of former civil servants) and the ECI.

 

  1. The twenty Lok Sabha Constituencies will be selected by the Social Audit Group and the same will be intimated to the ECI  for making the records/machines available.

 

  1. The ECI will release these records, EVM and VVPAT machines under whatever supervisory arrangement it considers necessary to ensure that while the auditors have full access, these records are not tampered with in any way during the audit. The only rider would be that these arrangements would not in any way fetter the ability of the Social Audit Group to examine the records and machines in any way the Group considers necessary.

 

  1. To test the integrity and security system of the EVM and VVPAT machines, the Social Audit Group will, in consultation with the ECI, have the freedom to appoint an independent third-party team of IT experts from India or from abroad, if necessary, who have the experience of conducting hackathons. There would be no restrictions on the hackers – they would be free to check the hardware, the software, and also the programmes embedded in the chips of all these machines to determine whether the EVM/VVPAT machines are capable of being manipulated either before, during or after each step of the electoral process.

 

  1. All the EVM and VVPAT machines used for the hackathon would be disabled for future use under the joint supervision of the Social Audit Group and ECI, to ensure that none of these is ever used again in any future election.

 

  1. We are sending copies of this letter to the Chief Electoral Officers of all States and Union Territories, to keep them apprised of our proposal. Furthermore, as many of the electoral records, EVM and VVPAT machines are lying in the immediate custody of various state government agencies, they too are custodians of public property.

 

  1. We look forward to an early response from you. A delegation from our group is willing and keen to meet you at a mutually convenient time to discuss the further modalities of the Social Audit.

Copied to:

Chief Electoral Officers of all States and Union Territories

Yours faithfully,

 

1. S.P. Ambrose IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Secretary, Ministry of Shipping & Transport, GoI
2. Mohinderpal Aulakh IPS (Retd.) Former Director General of Police (Jails), Govt. of Punjab
3. N. Bala Baskar

 

IAS (Retd.)

 

Former Principal Adviser (Finance), Ministry of External Affairs, GoI
4. G. Balachandhran IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
5. Vappala Balachandran IPS (Retd.) Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
6. Gopalan Balagopal IAS (Retd.) Former Special Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
7. Chandrashekhar Balakrishnan IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Coal, GoI
8. Sharad Behar IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
9. Madhu Bhaduri IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Portugal
10. Pradip Bhattacharya IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Development & Planning and Administrative Training Institute, Govt. of West Bengal
11. Sundar Burra IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra
12. Kalyani Chaudhuri IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
13. Anna Dani IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra
14. Vibha Puri Das IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, GoI
15. P.R. Dasgupta IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, Food Corporation of India, GoI
16. Pradeep K. Deb IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Deptt. Of Sports, GoI
17. M.G. Devasahayam IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Govt. of Haryana
18. Sushil Dubey IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Sweden
19. Arif Ghauri IRS (Retd.) Former Governance Adviser, DFID, Govt. of the United Kingdom (on deputation)
20. Gourisankar Ghosh IAS (Retd.) Former Mission Director, National Drinking Water Mission, GoI
21. S.K. Guha IAS (Retd.) Former Joint Secretary, Department of Women & Child Development, GoI
22. Meena Gupta IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forests, GoI
23. Jagdish Joshi IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary (Planning), Govt. of Maharashtra
24. Rahul Khullar IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India
25. Brijesh Kumar IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Department of Information Technology, GoI
26. Harsh Mander IAS (Retd.) Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
27. Lalit Mathur IAS (Retd.) Former Director General, National Institute of Rural Development, GoI
28. Aditi Mehta IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Rajasthan
29. Deb Mukharji IFS (Retd.) Former High Commissioner to Bangladesh and former Ambassador to Nepal
30. Shiv Shankar Mukherjee IFS (Retd.)

 

Former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom

 

31. Nagalsamy IA&AS (Retd.) Former Principal Accountant General, Tamil Nadu & Kerala
32. P.G.J. Nampoothiri IPS (Retd.) Former Director General of Police, Govt. of Gujarat
33. Surendra Nath IAS (Retd.) Former Member, Finance Commission, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
34. Amitabha Pande IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Inter-State Council, GoI
35. N.K. Raghupathy IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, Staff Selection Commission, GoI
36. K. Sujatha Rao IAS (Retd.) Former Health Secretary, GoI
37. Aruna Roy IAS (Resigned)  
38. Deepak Sanan IAS (Retd.) Former Principal Adviser (AR) to Chief Minister, Govt. of Himachal Pradesh
39. S. Satyabhama IAS (Retd.) Former Chairperson, National Seeds Corporation, GoI
40. Ardhendu Sen IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
41. Ashok Kumar Sharma IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Finland and Estonia
42. Navrekha Sharma IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Indonesia
43. Raju Sharma IAS (Retd.) Former Member, Board of Revenue, Govt. of Uttar Pradesh
44. Hindal Tyabji IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary rank, Govt. of Jammu & Kashmir
45. Ramani Venkatesan IAS (Retd.) Former Director General, YASHADA, Govt. of Maharashtra

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