The Election Commission of India (ECI) today dismissed sensational but unsubstantiated claims made by a US-based hacker of Indian origin who, at an event hosted by the Indian Journalists Association (IJA) in London, that the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in Indian elections could be hacked.
The hacker, who identified himself as Syed Shuja, did not appear personally at the event but only spoke to the gathered journalists through video-conferencing, with his face covered. His exact location was not disclosed.
The invitation for the event, issued by IJA President Ashish Ray, said the US-based cyber expert would, "with the help of EVMs actually used in recent Indian elections, show how these machines have been manipulated; and where exactly elections have been tampered with."
No such evidence was provided, but the hacker, who claims to have designed the EVMs while working for the public sector Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL), one of the manufacturers of the machines, alleged that the 2014 Lok Sabha elections were rigged.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won 282 seats in the 545-member Lok Sabha in those elections.
Shuja alleged the BJP had hacked the machines using a "modulator" transmitting "military-grade frequency". He went on to allege that when and his team went to meet BJP leaders in Hyderabad to take up this issue, they were shot at. He said his colleagues were killed and he had suffered injuries. He said a communal incident was arranged to cover the deaths. He said he fled India and sought asylum in the United States.
He said his team had managed to "intercept" the signals during the 2015 Assembly elections in Delhi, but for which the BJP would have won them hands down. The Aam Aadmi Party won 67 of the 70 seats in the Delhi Assembly.
He said the BJP would have similarly won the recently Assembly elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgar, but for the "interception of the signals" from the machines by his team. The Congress won the three states.
Shuja also made several other claims, but all without any substantiation. They came just a few days after several Opposition parties, during a meeting in Kolkata, demanded that the Election Commission go back to the use of paper ballots in view of allegations in various quarters that EVMs could be tampered with.
Congress leader and former Union Minister Kapil Sibal was among those present at the event.
In a statement soon after the "hackathon", the ECI dismissed it as "motivated slugfest".
"It has come to the notice of Election Commission of India that an event claiming to demonstrate EVMs used by ECI can be tampered with, has been organised in London.
"Whereas, ECI has been wary of becoming a party to this motivated slugfest, ECI firmly stands by the empirical facts about foolproof nature of ECI EVMs deployed in elections in India," it said.
"It needs to be reiterated that these EVMs are manufactured in Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) and Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL) under very strict supervisory and security conditions and there are rigorous Standard Operating Procedures meticulously observed at all stages under the supervision of a committee of eminent technical experts constituted way back in 2010.
"It is being separately examined as to what legal action can and should be taken in the matter," the statement added.
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