Special Correspondent

Not enough time to deploy the machines: State Election Commission

CHENNAI: With the State Election Commission (SEC) informing the Madras High Court that it was not in a position to deploy Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) for civic polls, the First Bench said it could not pass any orders on the use of the machines for Chennai Corporation polls, scheduled for February 18.

When a public interest litigation petition seeking a direction to the SEC to use EVMs for the February 18 polls came up for hearing on Tuesday, G. Masilamani, senior counsel for the SEC, said since there was a paucity of time the machines could not be checked and certified by engineers on time. Poll authorities have to source the sealing paper from the security press in Nasik if they were to use EVMs, he said, adding that since most of the preparations had already begun the authority could not be expected to change a horse midstream.

Additional Advocate-General P.S. Raman said more than 11,000 Chennai Corporation employees, most of them school teachers, had been identified for training, which would commence on February 7. Opting for EVMs at this stage would mean undertaking an irreversible process, he said, adding if it could not be completed on time it would have an adverse impact on poll schedule.

G. Rajagopal, senior counsel for the Election Commission of India, submitted that if appropriate orders were issued adequate number of engineers could be requisitioned to complete EVM certification expeditiously.

"Lack of will"

N.L. Rajah, counsel for the petitioner, said it was a question of "will power rather than skill power," and added that the administrative problems cited by the respondents were not insurmountable.

Agreeing with him, the Bench said it was possible to deploy EVMs if there was a will. Training is only elementary, more so because the trainees would be teachers, it said.

However, the Bench said that in view of the "ifs and buts" involved in procuring EVMs, certifying them, training the personnel and putting them to use, the court would not pass any order in respect of the February 18 polls. It admitted the PIL and posted it after two weeks for further proceedings.

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