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Former Bureaucrat Questions ECI Over Appointment of BJP-Affiliated Members to the Board of Company That Makes EVMs

As per Sarma, there are at least four BJP nominees who have been selected as "independent" directors on BEL's board.

Image Courtesy: PTI

Former secretary to the government of India (GoI), EAS Sarma), has asked the ECI (Election Commission of India) to direct the concerned authorities to take appropriate action against the appointment of BJP-affiliated persons to the board of Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL).

In his letter to Rajiv Kumar, chief election commissioner, Sarma alleged that the BJP is continuously supervising the functioning of the BEL, "a CPSE which is closely engaged in the manufacture and supply of the electronic voting machines (EVMs), including the development of the 'secret' encrypted source code which is embedded in the chips that form the core of the EVMs."

As per Sarma, there are at least four BJP nominees who have been selected as "independent" directors on BEL's board. 

"Despite my bringing this disturbing fact to ECI's attention quite some time ago, I find that the ECI, for reasons best known to it, has deliberately chosen not to act, suggesting that the Commission remains unconcerned about the level playing ground in elections being brazenly tilted in favour of the ruling BJP!"

Sarma further wrote that when he scanned BEL's website, he found the background of one of the independent directors, Shri Mansukhbhai Shamjibhai Khachariya. His background on the website includes the information declaring that Khachariya is presently holding the post of BJP Rajkot District President.

"While I have no intention to question the credentials of Shri Khanchariya in any manner, does not the Commission find it highly objectionable for an important office bearer of the BJP to be nominated to the BEL's Board as an 'independent ' Director? The Companies Act mandates that an independent Director should play a pivotal role in managing the affairs of the company. In the instant case, this particular company is closely engaged in the manufacture and supply of EVMs, especially at a time when there is growing criticism against EVM technology and its vulnerability to manipulation," Sarma said.  

As per Sarma, there are three other independent directors with affiliations with the BJP. 

"What disturbs me all the more is that the Commission, apparently not fully realising its role as a Constitutional authority and as the custodian for conducting elections in a free and fair manner, should close its eyes to this and openly become a party to the ruling political executive inducting four of its representatives to run the affairs of the BEL. Does it not imply that the ECI no longer considers itself to be an independent Constitutional authority?"

Sarma reminded the ECI of its authority under Article 324 of the Constitution to intervene and take action in the matter. 

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