Q: The Opposition has raised concerns over the credibility of EVMs in elections…
A. The stringent technical safeguards incorporated in EVMs and the administrative/ security measures protocol followed by us during elections as well as the non-election period rule out any doubts on the integrity of the instruments. Successive court judgments since 2001 too have clearly ruled out any tampering or manipulations in the EVMs.
Q. Is a larger sample of VVPAT (voter-verified paper audit trail) slips needed to verify EVM tallies?
A. There is already a mandatory verification of VVPAT slips with the electronic count of the EVM in one randomly selected polling station (PS) per assembly constituency in case of state elections, and in one randomly selected polling station per assembly segment in case of parliamentary constituencies.
Q. Recently you took a stand against a return to the paper ballot…
A. We have had an unblemished voting run with EVMs for over two decades now in India so there is no question of reverting back to the era of ballot papers. Besides being downright retrograde in our context, ballot paper based voting is prone to a variety of malpractices.
Q. You took a public stand recently against pressure tactics and bullying. Can you elaborate?
A. I did speak of pressure tactics and intimidation at an international conference organised by the Election Commission in late January. At the time, I was really disturbed by the kind of circus enacted in London (on January 22) by someone called Syed Shuja, who said he would demonstrate how EVMs can be tampered with. It turned out to be a complete flop show, a non-event. The entire thing was probably stage managed by vested interests. The ECI lodged an FIR on January 22 itself with the Delhi police. So many highly regarded technocrats have been working to ensure that the election process remains credible and transparent, but now we are being subjected to pressure tactics from an alien country.
Q. What about duplicate names on voter lists?
A. The cases of duplicate or multiple entries of names in the electoral rolls are due to voter migration within the country. These people get their names registered in a new place of residence without disclosing previous registrations.
Q. Can registered voters be provided with postal ballot facility in India and abroad?
A. Right now, with the legal provisions as they are, it’s not possible.
Q. Is the selection procedure of election commissioners fair and transparent?
A. So far, yes. However, the matter is now in the Supreme Court. So it would not be correct to comment further on this.
Q. The 2019 general election is just months away. How different will the task be for the EC this time?
A. In size and scale, the coming election will be larger than in 2014. The challenge is greater in Maoist-affected areas. Curbing the use of money power is another major challenge. The EC has proposed to the law ministry that anonymous donations be limited to Rs 2,000 and that political parties should not receive contributions in cash exceeding Rs 20 crore or 20 per cent of the total contribution, whichever is less. The Commission has also asked that print and social media be brought within the ambit of Section 126(1) of the Representation of the People Act so that the concept of ‘silence period’ is honoured and opinion polls are restricted.