Andhra SEC can’t use ‘eWatch’ app until Feb 17 as HC adjourns case

In a major setback to Andhra Pradesh State Election Commissioner (SEC) Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar, the high court on Tuesday adjourned the hearing on ‘eWatch’, an election monitoring app, until February 17, rendering it useless until then.

The court said the SEC cannot use the app until it procures a security certificate, and directed the SEC to reply to the queries raised by the Andhra Pradesh Technology Services (APTS), the nodal agency for conducting security audit and issuing a security certificate, without which no app can come into play.

The court took up the PILs filed against eWatch, which were heard by Chief Justice Arup Kumar Goswami and Justice Praveen Kumar.

C. Sumon, representing the state government, informed the court that based on the SEC’s request, APTS conducted preliminary tests and sent a report about the security flaws and concerns detected in eWatch.

The APTS highlighted that allegedly the source code of Andhra Pradesh Social Welfare Department was used in the development of eWatch.

Sumon apprised the court that the SEC has not allegedly produced any document to show that the social welfare department gave permission to use its source code.

In this regard, the APTS sought more information from the SEC and it was highlighted that if the source code was used without the knowledge of the social welfare department, then there is the possibility of a major cyber security threat to the department.

The APTS generally takes five days just to check the security worthiness of an app.

The election commission expressed its willingness to use the election monitoring app of the Election Commission of India (ECI) if it is allowed to do so while the SEC’s counsel submitted that the app developed by the state government, Nigha, was not working.

The court enquired if the state government has any objection if the app developed by it is used by the SEC.

Sumon informed the court that he had no instructions on the status of the app developed by the state but said that the state will not have any objection.

Andhra Pradesh has witnessed a war of poll apps in the run up to the rural local bodies elections.

Earlier, three petitions were filed in the court challenging the app, which attracted criticism from the ruling YSR Congress Party as well as the BJP.

The petitioners as well as YSRCP leaders alleged that Kumar ignored ECI’s CVIGIL app and the state government’s apps and went for an altogether new app.

According to the plaintiffs, the State Election Commission allegedly did not have the required security certificate under the Andhra Pradesh cyber security policy and other government orders, while Kumar had failed to approach the relevant government agency to secure a security certificate.

Though the election commission’s newly appointed secretary, Kannababu, said that eWatch was completely developed inhouse while launching it, the petitioners alleged that it is not clear as to who exactly developed the digital app.