SECRET SEALS ARE USED TO SECURE ELECTION RESULT DOCUMENTS & EVM CONTROL UNITS AFTER COUNTING
By bappaditya paul
After a gap of several years, the Election Commission (EC) this time is coming up with new Secret Seals to secure documents containing election results and the Control Unit of Electronic Voting Machines after the counting of votes. The EC has procured 4,600 new Secret Seals from the Kolkata Mint and those will be directly sent to the returning officers of all the Lok Sabha constituencies throughout the country a day or two before the poll. The seals will be allotted at the rate of one seal per Assembly segment.
According to an EC source, the handle of the new Secret Seal is made of PVC whereas the previous one used to have wooden handle. Besides this, a few more security features have been added to the seal that is made of brass but the official declined to divulge the changes. “All I can tell is that like its previous version, the new seal also contains the signage ‘Election Commission of India’ in English and Hindi and each of the seals comes with an unique serial number.” In mid last year when the EC decided to procure new Secret Seals, both the Kolkata and Mumbai Mint sent samples to fetch the order. But on evaluating the samples, the poll penal opined in favour of the one sent by Kolkata Mint and it was formally awarded the contract in August-September last year.
“Kolkata Mint completed manufacturing the 4,600 seals recently and the consignment is now being delivered to the EC headquarters in Delhi. The order was worth about Rs 50-lakh,” the EC source added.
A retired EC official said that the Secret Seal are not usually changed during every poll and rather they are put to reuse every time. “The same set of Secret Seals have been in use for the past several years before the poll panel decided to procure new ones. The move could be aimed at negating the chances of manipulation that someone might attempt by manufacturing duplicates of the seal,” he said.Going by the standard operating procedure, the Secret Seal is used to reseal the Control Unit (CU) of an EVM after the result of voting recorded in the CU has been ascertained candidate-wise and entered in Form 17C and Form 20 enlisting the result details. The resealed CU and result documents are stored in a strong room and is reopened only after a stipulated period fixed by the EC or under the order of a court.
A returning officer is required to send the Secret Seal back to the poll panel within 24-hours of the counting of votes.
(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report was first published in The Statesman on 12 March 2014 under a different headline.)