EC asks Punjab CEO for compliance report on EVMs security

New Delhi, Feb 15 (IANS) The Election Commission (EC) has written to the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of Punjab seeking compliance report from each assembly constituency of the state on the security of the electronic voting machines (EVMs).

In a letter dated February 14, the commission also instructed for strict compliance of its instructions “in letter and spirit”.

The EC has reiterated that barring natural calamity, the Returning Officer (RO) or any other officer will not enter the inner perimeter of the strongroom where the EVMs have been kept without the prior permission of the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) through the District Election Officers (DEOs).

It has also instructed to bar, by raising barricades, any human or vehicular movement in the 20-foot periphery of the strongroom building.

Polling in the state was held on February 4. The counting of votes will be done, with other states, on March 11 and results declared the same day.

The EC had already instructed to put double locks on the strongrooms and the keys to be kept by the Returning Officer and the District Electoral Officer (DEO).

It had instructed a two-layered security of the strongroom buildings, with inner periphery guarded by central paramilitary forces (CPF) and the outer security ring to be formed by the state armed police.

In the constituency-wise compliance report it has sought from the CEO of Punjab, the EC has asked whether all this is being done, apart from ensuring uninterrupted power supply to the strongroom premises and allowing candidates’ representatives to keep a close watch on the strongroom entrance.

On Tuesday, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) approached the poll panel in Delhi and alleged breach of security at the strongrooms. It sought strict security of strongrooms. The party earlier moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court in this connection.

The AAP delegation led by Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia urged the EC to act against the officials involved in the alleged security breach at strongrooms.

“We highlighted major lapses in the security of EVMs seen across Punjab and also criminal negligence on the part of Returning Officers in handling the security of EVMs kept in strongrooms,” Sisodia said after meeting the EC.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had on Monday accused state officials of trying to move EVMs from a strongroom in Punjab. Officials, however, denied the charge.

The memorandum submitted to the CEC read that on February 6, the Returning Officer of Gill constituency entered the premises of strongroom unaccompanied either by candidates or their representatives.

Another similar incident took place on Monday where the Returning Officer of Nabha constituency in Patiala allowed four people to enter the storage campus on the pretext of collecting certain documents. “Instead, they moved some EVMs kept in steel boxes,” it said.

“The lackadaisical approach with which the Returning Officers in Punjab are following the instruction of May 5, 2015, notification — which lists out instructions regarding the storage and safety of EVMs — it merits your urgent attention,” the AAP memorandum said.