Can a corrupt returning officer undermine EC’s administrative safeguards?

Some interesting developments have taken place in the recent days. The Uttarakhand High Court has said that one cannot
criticize Election Commission (EC) a constitutional body without hard evidence.

Meanwhile the Election Commission did not actually conduct the hackathon it promised last Saturday, June 3, as there were
no takers from the political parties. While the Aam Admi Party (AAP) and the Indian National Congress (INC) wrote in to
the EC objecting to the limited framework that the hackathon was being conducted in, the two parties CPI(M) and NCP
that registered, did not take part in the actual hacking of the machine citing one reason or the other. The EC on its part has now said
that the issue of EVMs and their one hundred per cent security, is now closed.

Today, June 6, an additional collector from Goa, Sabaji Shetye, was arrested by the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) Goa as he was caught
red handed taking a bribe of Rs. 25,000/- as advance towards sanctioning an explosive storage licence. There would be nothing unsual in this news
per se except that this man had been the Returning officer for the 2015 by-elections for the prestigious Panjim assembly constituency.

That election was held because the seat was vacated by the then Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar when he resigned to go to Delhi to join the
Central Cabinet to become the Defense Minister. The election was won with overwhelming majority by the BJP.

Those were the days when no one ever questioned the functioning of the EVM. Though there were doubts, people
were probably just learning about how the machines operated and were not confident of making statements about the
EVMs and their functioning with any certainty.

The EC, on its par,  has made statements saying EVMs are safe and that internal parts  in EVM  cannot be changed or manipulated as there
are administrative safeguards. However, they have not specified these administrative safeguards actually are.

As of now, it is not clear what due diligence tests the EC conducts so that a critical position such as that of a Returning officer is filled by
a person of integrity, a must to ensure free and fair elections.But now that an ex-RO has been caught red handed taking bribe, serious questions

Isn't it necessary to check and investigate all previous assignments of this ex-RO to ensure that he did not indulge in any hanky panky (read
corrupt practices) before?

And if a person of suspicious credentials is made RO, would EC's administrative safeguards not get undermined? Given the high level of corruption in
India and the huge stakes in the Indian elections, the EVM should be tamper proof and even if the most corrupt of guys tries any stunt, there ought to be
enough checks and balances there so that he cannot get away with tampering.

Today's arrest of an ex-RO raises serious questions that the EC would be compelled to answer.

Related Articles:

1. Election Commission transfers returning officer after complaint from Nationalist Student Congress
2. AAP shows live demonstration of EVM fraud in Delhi assembly



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