Andhra Pradesh HC directs SEC to not use E-Watch

Sushree Mohanty

The Andhra Pradesh (AP) High Court has denied the permission to the State Election
Commission from using the mobile application e-Watch for the oncoming Gram Panchayat Elections in Andhra Pradesh.


The decision comes following security concerns and listed the matter for further hearing to February 17, 2021.


The Two-Judge Bench presided by CJ Arup Kumar Goswami additionally issued notification to the State Election Commission to file a response with regards to the security concerns raised against the application.


The petition filed under Article 226 of Constitution of India by Angrekula Nageswaro
criticized the use of ‘E-Watch’ and raised objections on its related abnormalities while
keeping a check on the poll. The application is said to be developed by a private office.

The plea also claimed that the application does not follow the standardised security procedures as per the National Cyber Security Policy, 2013 and the Andhra Pradesh Cyber
Security Police, 2017.

“The necessary Security Audit Certification is yet to be obtained and without such certificate, it will be impermissible for the State Election Commission to use the Application.”, the petitioner added.


Government pleader C. Suman notified the court that dependent on an order from the State Election Commission (SEC), the Andhra Pradesh Technology Services (APTSL) did a primary test and observed few security concerns in the application.


He further educated the court that a source code that has connections with the Andhra
Pradesh social welfare was utilized for building up the application without acquiring the
authorization from the division for its usage.

He said utilization of such a source code could prompt a significant network protection
danger to the social welfare department itself.

The counsel for the State Election Commissions’, N. Ashwani Kumar said that the State
Election Commission will be able to use the Vigil application created by the Election
Commission of India if there was no issue with the state government.

He also informed the Hon’ble Court that the Nigha application created by the state
government was not working appropriately.

Senior Advocate C Sumon, additionally informed the court that in its previous hearing on
February 5, 2021 that the State Election Commission had written a letter to the head of the
Andhra Pradesh Technology Services Limited (APTSL), mentioning to “issue a Security
Audit Certificate” which will take around four-five days of time.

The Counsel representing the Election Commission expressed “that he doesn’t know” about the situation and was granted time to look into the matter.

The Court adjourned the matter for February 9, 2021 while requesting that the application
ought not to be utilized till February 9, 2021.


“We deem it appropriate to take up these Petitions on February 9, for further consideration
and till then E-watch mobile application shall not be given effect to by the State Election
Commission,” the Court has stated in its February 5, 2021 hearing.


The Court in its recent hearing asked the State Election Commission if it had any objection in regards to utilization of existing applications, c-VIGIL and NIGHAA to which the SEC replied that it has no issues with the matter.


The State counsel presented that the Andhra Pradesh Technology Services Limited (APTSL) has raised security worries about e-Watch.


The Court further asked the State Election Commission to file a response about the matter
and adjourned the case for further hearing on February 17, 2021.


It also stated that the stay on the utilisation of the E-watch will continue till the date of
adjournment.


Advocate Ashwani Kumar appeared on behalf of the Andhra Pradesh State Election
Commission while Senior Advocate C Sumon, represented the Andhra Pradesh government.

Additional Solicitor General N Harinath was the counsel for the Union of India and advocate VR Reddy represented the Petitioner.

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