A petition has been filed by Rupesh Behera, a voter, in the Odisha High Court regarding the discrepancies in the number of EVM votes polled and counted in the Kantabanji Assembly constituency that went to polls on 18 April 2019. In Odisha, the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections were simultaneously conducted by the Election Commission.
The petition says that the recorded number of EVM votes polled in Kantabanji Assembly Constituency was 1,82,411 while the number of EVM votes counted was 1,91,077. A discrepancy of 8,666 EVM votes was registered by the petitioner.
The EVM votes polled data was shared with the candidates on polling day. The petition says, “The returning officer after compiling the data of voter turnout in each booth of the constituency, furnished by the Presiding Officers of each booth, prepared a booth wise male, female and other voters turnout list and supplied the same to all the candidates contesting in the election through WhatsApp under the ‘Contesting Candidate’ ID.”
The above screenshot is annexed with the petition that reveals that one of the candidates of Kantabanji constituency received a WhatsApp message on EVM voter turnout data the day after polling. It shows that the male voter turnout was 90,629, female voter turnout was 91,782 and total number of votes polled was 1,82,411 while the voter turnout was 65.2%.
The EC’s website shows, however, that the number of EVM votes counted on counting day, 23 May, is 1,91,077.
The Congress candidate Santosh Singh Saluja won the seat, defeating his nearest rival by a mere 144 EVM votes.
The petition mentions that on counting day, the “contesting candidates complained before the returning officer” but it “fell into the deaf ears” (sic). The officers allegedly ignored the complaint of 8,666 surplus EVM votes and declared the results.
The petitioner has also alleged that “Election Commission of India with a malafide intention after knowing from the returning officer about candidates’ complaint” changed the data on their website in “Voter Turnout”.
The Quint in its article published on 31 May, had reported the discrepancies in the EVM votes polled and counted in over 370 Parliamentary constituencies.
In another article published on 11 June, we have pointed out how the EC has changed the EVM votes polled data at least 4 times in a month, ever since questions have been raised on the difference in EVM votes polled and counted.
“The petitioner met the EC officers several times pointing out the discrepancies but they refused to acknowledge his complaint. In fact, EC’s website reflected the voter turnout for Kantibhanji as 1,82,411 EVM votes, even after the results were declared on 23-24 May. EC corrected it only after they got to know that we are filing a petition in the HC.”Ashwini Kumar, Petitioner’s Lawyer
The petitioner has demanded a CBI inquiry into the matter and has also requested the High Court to declare the election void.
The petition is likely to be heard in the High Court after vacation, said Kumar.
The Quint wrote to the Election Commission seeking clarity on this issue. This article will be updated as and when we receive a response.