A city-based computer engineer who demonstrated the vulnerability of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) to tampering was taken into custody by the Mumbai police from his residence in Madhapur locality here on Saturday morning.
The Mumbai police was investigating the case of a ‘missing EVM' from the Mumbai collectorate and the same machine was reportedly used for the ‘vulnerability demonstration' by the technologist, Hari K. Prasad, in April last.
Mr. Prasad, managing director of a Hyderabad-based technology firm NetIndia, had taken the help of two other researchers - a Michigan University professor J. Alex Halderman and a Holland-based technology activist Rop Gonggrijp, to demonstrate that EVMs used in India could be tampered by altering small components of the machine.
The researchers had used a genuine EVM in their ‘vulnerability demonstration' on April 28 and the Election Commission of India had then rejected the claim outright. After video footage of the demonstration showed the serial number of the EVM, authorities found that one of the EVMs in Mumbai collectorate was ‘stolen' and a case registered in MRA Marg station on May 13.
The Mumbai police had earlier served a notice on him on August 6 asking him to appear before them, but he could not go for “personal reasons”. The police team led by Inspector Ravindra Wani arrested him from his residence early in the morning and took him to Mumbai.
Mr. Prasad told The Hindu that he managed to procure a genuine EVM only to prove that tampering was possible. The machine's serial number was shown to accord ‘authenticity' in the video footage of the vulnerability demonstration. “Perhaps, the machine went missing after the ECI had begun verifying availability of EVMs throughout the country. Then, the Mumbai police had registered a case on theft of an EVM,” Mr. Prasad explained in his telephonic conversation.
The Hyderabad-based researcher was called for a discussion on the EVM tamperability by Chief Election Commissioner Dr. S.Y. Quraishi on August 10.
The arrest of Mr. Prasad evoked a sharp reaction from Telugu Desam president N. Chandrababu Naidu who demanded his immediate release. The Telugu Desam had been demanding the use of paper ballots in elections, if the ECI could not dispel doubts over the tamperability of the EVMs.