The Election Commission of India on Saturday clarified that it had never "promised no-holds barred hackathon" when it announced the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) Challenge. The commission was responding to Aam Aadmi Party's objections to the "rules and regulations" imposed on next month's hackathon and insistence on changing the EVM motherboard.
"As can be recalled, during the All Party Meeting on 12th May 2017, wherein Aam Aadmi Party was duly represented, the Commission had clearly explained that it will offer an 'EVM Challenge' and not a 'Hackathon'. Hence, the statement that Commission is "backtracking" from hackathon is absolutely baseless," ECI Under Secretary Madhusudan Gupta.
On Friday, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had hinted that it might pull out of the EVM hackathon, which will be organised by the ECI on June 3.
Just hours before the application process came to a close, AAP leader Gopal Rai said at a press conference that they had written to the ECI, asking it why it was "running away" from the no-holds-barred hackathon it had promised.
The letter also talked of how an ECI officer had said only "visual examination" of the EVM would be permitted. Rai pointed out that no hacker would be able to tamper with a system just by looking at it. "Do you think that a machine can be hacked by looking at it?" the AAP said in the letter to the poll panel.
In its reply, the ECI also said that it does not subscribe to the views expressed that open hackathon is necessary for safeguarding the election process in the country. "The commission is fully confident of the robustness and non-tamperability of the EVMs of ECI in view of the technical security features and the stringent administrative protocols and procedural safeguards mandatorily followed during and after the polls," Gupta added.
Visual inspection of the EVMs has been provided as per the framework of the EVM Challenge. The commission has also specified that the challenge would be conducted within the framework of the existing administrative safeguards and security protocols strictly followed in the field when EVMs are deployed.
"EVMs are not accessible to any unauthorised person at any stage before, during or after the polls and as such, the question of allowing 'tools' for tampering the EVM machines does not arise," Gupta said.
A visual inspection of the ballot unit and control unit is also allowed during the first level checking, after which the machines are sealed and safely secured in the strong-rooms with round-the-clock armed security.
"There is absolutely no truth in the contention that the commission is 'trying to hide' anything and not allowing 'anyone to touch the EVM'. On the contrary, the challenge clearly provides extensive opportunity to the challenger to handle the EVMs and press as many buttons in any number of combinations to attempt to tamper the machines.
On demands for permission to take the EVMs for tampering or allow changing of internal circuit, the commission said: "This is like saying that they should be permitted to manufacture a new machine and introduce their new EVMs in our system. Further, it is common knowledge that changing the 'internal circuit' of any electronic device is like changing the whole device itself, after which it is no longer the same device."