EVM theft case: Court slams cops for shoddy probe

The sessions Court on Wednesday came down heavily on the city police over the investigation of the electronic voting machine (EVM) theft case.

"An investigation is necessary in the case, but my anxiety is whether the investigation is in the right direction," Sessions Judge ML Tahaliyani said while hearing the police's application seeking cancellation of Hyderabad-based researcher Hari Prasad's bail.

"The police haven't ascertained till date who stole the EVM from the collector's office. They are concentrating only on the custody issue, either deliberately or out of ignorance. The case is much larger that just seeking cancellation of the bail of the person," the court observed.

Prasad was arrested in September this year for his alleged role in the theft case. He was later let out on bail on a surety of Rs 25,000. Prasad was arrested nearly four months after he appeared on a local channel, demonstrating the ways EVMs could be tampered with.

He, along with two foreign researchers, had claimed that the voting machines were vulnerable and that they could be tampered with.

According to the police, Prasad had received the machine from some social activists, who had stolen it from the collector's office here.

"The police are only concentrating on Prasad's custody. None of the court's queries have been answered satisfactorily," Judge Tahaliyani said.

The court is expected to pass its order on the police's application on December 21.

Both the foreign researchers, J Alex Halderman and Rop Gonggrijp, who had co-authored a study — India's EVMs are vulnerable to fraud — with Prasad were stopped at the Delhi airport, where they reached in the early hours of Sunday.

They were denied entry to the airport for over 18 hours under the pretext that they had flouted visa rules during their last visit.

However, when both put their foot down and demanded to know the reason why they were being asked to go back and after hours of confusion, the Union Home Ministry lifted the restriction on their entry on Monday afternoon.

"We came to India hoping that the largest democracy would be open to having a strong debate and discussion on this issue. But here, they decided to scuttle every chance of our entry into the country," said Gonggrijp.

Both researchers were in Mumbai after they were allegedly asked not to participate in any public meeting. "We were to visit Ahmedabad to address a conference on vulnerable EVMs, but we were warned not to participate," said Halderman.

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