VIJAYAWADA: AP high court on Friday directed the state election commission not to deploy e-watch mobile application till February 9. The SEC developed the app to receive complaints over model code of conduct violations in the ensuing panchayat elections. The court posed several questions over the usage of the app and as the counsel for the SEC sought time to get instructions, it passed the interim orders.
Three PILs have been moved before the high court challenging the usage of e-watch app by SEC. The petitioners argued that the app created by the SEC does not have requisite security clearance from authorities concerned which is mandatory before putting it to use.
The petitioners also questioned the necessity for a new app when two applications — one approved by Election Commission of India and one developed by the state government — are already in place. The ‘c-Vigil’ app was developed by ECI during the 2019 general elections, while the ‘Nigha’ app was developed by the state government.
The HC bench, comprising Chief Justice Arup Kumar Goswami and Justice C Praveen Kumar, asked the counsel for SEC as to what purpose the new app will serve now since the model code of conduct has been in vogue since January 8.
The bench further sought details about the amount spent on the app, who developed it and if it has necessary security audit certifications. The bench also sought to know why SEC is not using existing apps.
The counsel for SEC, N Ashwani Kumar, told the court the app was developed in line with the guidelines of ECI. He also said the SEC has written to the managing director of Andhra Pradesh Technology Services to conduct a security audit of the app. He sought time to get details on other questions posed by the court.
Government pleader C Sumon told the bench that no app can be put into use without obtaining security clearance certificate from APTS which is the competent authority.
As the SEC’s letter was received only on Thursday, it would take five days for APTS to look into the details of the app and give security clearance certificate, he added.
After hearing both sides, the court directed the SEC to postpone the usage of e-watch app till February 9 which is the next date of hearing. The HC also clarified its interim order will not be any impediment to the government or APTS from reviewing the app and giving security clearance.