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Kerala police book Manorama for peddling fake news against EVMs: When will they book ‘liberal’ portals and commentators who peddled the same lie

While Manorama has been booked for fake news on EVMs, no action has been taken against The News Minute which peddled the same lie and Prashan Bhushan who raised it in SC

A case has been registered by the Kerala police against online media platform Manorama for disseminating false information regarding poll workers and electronic voting machines ahead of polling for Lok Sabha elections in the state. The outlet reported a story claiming that electronic voting machines located in the capital district have malfunctioned, according to the case filed at the City Cybercrime station in Thiruvananthapuram. The report further claimed that there was a disagreement between lawmakers and election officials on the matter.

An official post by the Kerala Police read, “A case has been registered against an online channel for spreading fake news that electronic voting machines (EVMs) used in Thiruvananthapuram district were faulty and that there was a dispute between election officials and politicians. The FIR was registered at the Thiruvananthapuram City Cyber Crime Police Station. The action was taken on a complaint filed by the district collector seeking legal action. Following the legal action, the news was withdrawn from the online channel.”

It further added, “An FIR was registered at Thiruvalla police station in connection with the derogatory remarks against the chief electoral officer and the accused was traced and mobile phones seized. Strict action will be taken against those who spread misinformation and hate in society in connection with the general elections and those who are spreading propaganda in a way that insults womanhood. Cyber patrolling has been put in place around the clock to detect and take legal action against all kinds of cyber attacks.”

Notably, the same news was picked up by the leftist ecosystem and used to attack the Bharatiya Janata Party and further exploited to cast aspersions on the EVMs. The News Minute published a dubious report on 18th April with the title “VVPATs print extra slip with BJP lotus symbol during mock polls in Kerala” which is still accessible to the readers. The story was also tweeted by Dhanya Rajendran, the Editor-in-Chief of the communist propaganda website, from her official X (formerly Twitter) account.

Citing the same report, advocate Prashant Bhushan who now acts more like a hardline conspiracy theorist in his attempt to undermine the BJP, asked for 100% verification of the VVPAT slips during the Supreme Court hearing on 18th April. The Supreme Court then ordered the Election Commission to look into the situation. Judges Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta’s bench directed, “Mr Maninder Singh (ECI Counsel), please crosscheck it.”

Anticipatedly, there are no formal complaints against any of them. The News Minute hasn’t even bothered to remove the phoney report while spreading fake news with unabashed impunity. Similarly, Prashant Bhushan’s outrageous query was entertained by the apex court rather than facing consequences for distributing misleading information.

What was the claim

On 17th April, Onmanorama claimed that four Electronic Voting Machines in Kasaragod, Kerala, had mistakenly registered votes in favour of the BJP during a mock poll. The ludicrous accusations were submitted to the Election Commission of India (ECI) by CPIM leader M V Balakrishnan and the agent of Congress candidate Rajmohan Unnithan, Nasar Cherkalam. Furthermore, they wanted the “erring” voting devices to be replaced.

The article read, “Nasar Cherkalam said the BJP’s lotus was getting extra votes during the commissioning of the machines for the polling stations in Kasaragod Assembly Constituency. He also pointed out that the Congress’s ‘hand’ symbol was smaller than other symbols on the voting machines and asked the officials to change it. The officials tested 20 machines at a time. When all 10 options on the EVMs were pressed one time each, the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) gave two votes to the BJP in four machines. When the BJP’s lotus was not pressed, the same four erroneous VVPAT units gave one vote to the party, said Nasar Cherkalam.”

The allegations were then reproduced by other outlets like the News Minute.

Election Commission clarifies

“These news reports are false. We have verified the allegation from the district collector and it appears that they are false. We will submit a detailed report to the court,” countered Senior Deputy Election Commissioner Nitesh Kumar Vyas. Maninder Singh, the Election Commission’s counsel mentioned in the top court that over 118 crore votes have been cast in India since VVPATs were implemented. 4 crore VVPAT slips were tallied during this period, and the Commission only received 25 complaints, all of which were later resolved.

The reports claimed that the VVPATs were printing extra votes for BJP, while the fact is that during testing, first diagnostic slips were printed along with the first vote pressed. This extra slip didn’t contain any candidate’s name and symbol and is just a diagnostic slip to ensure that the printing function is working properly. But the media reports and opposition parties used it to spread the fake news of ‘extra slip for BJP’.

“Confusion was caused when it was alleged that during the mock poll conducted as part of the commissioning in Kasaragod constituency, additional VVPAT slips came out. The fact is that at the time of printing of test ballot slips after symbol loading, some machines were taken to the commissioning table without having taken the full print of VVPAT test slips. When the machine is restarted at the next commissioning table, the symbol of the first candidate was printed along with a standardization slip/first diagnostic slip which was supposed to be printed in the previous session,” declared Chief Electoral Officer Sanjay Kaul in Kerala. He emphasized that every electronic voting machine utilized in the state’s Lok Sabha elections is safe and error-free.

Bharat Electronics Ltd, which manufactures EVMs remarked, “The incomplete symbol loading which had happened in four VVPATs in Kasaragod could have occurred due to disconnection of the cable or by moving the VVPATs to the next stage before completion of prints.”

Opposition and its love-hate relationship with the EVMs

The Congress party and other opposition parties have a love-hate relationship with the electronic voting machine (EVM). While they are quick to criticize the machine when they fail to grab the seat of power, they don’t raise any questions when the machine counts the majority of votes in their favour and they win in Delhi, Punjab, Karnataka, Kerala, Himachal Pradesh or any other state. It’s interesting that the Election Commission even dared them to demonstrate that electronic voting machines are flawed and susceptible to hacking, but predictably, they would rather trade rhetorical jabs than accept the challenge.

“We are in our 60s. We all know what happened when there were ballot papers; you may have, but we have not forgotten,” even the highest court came down heavily while hearing pleas seeking cross-verification of the votes cast with Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) and raised doubts about the petitioner’s claims about the feasibility of the physical counting of votes given the large population of India. The arguments made by attorney Prashant Bhushan to switch back to paper ballots for voting instead of electronic voting machines (EVMs) could not persuade the bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta.

However, the opposition and their propagandists masquerading as journalists, lawyers and whatnot persist in their unrelenting assault on EVMs and their claims that the BJP is somehow manipulating the machines to win elections. They consistently devise the most ridiculous responses to support their charges, which only serves to embarrass them and repeat the never-ending loop with unwavering conviction.

Kerala will vote on 26th April and the results of the Lok Sabha election which started on 19th April will be out on 4th June.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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