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E-voting critic released on bail (finally)

'No offence disclosed'

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A computer scientist who exposed serious vulnerabilities in India's electronic voting machines was released on bail over the weekend after seven days in police custody.

Hari Prasad – who is the technical coordinator of a group called VeTA, short for Citizens for Verifiability, Transparency and Accountability in Elections – was arrested at his Hyderabad home on August 21 on charges he stole an EVM belonging to the Indian government. He was transported to Mumbai some 14 hours drive, where police questioned him about the person who provided the device used in a research paper published in April claiming the machines were vulnerable to flaws that could be exploited to rig Indian elections.

Indian news agency PTI reported that the metropolitan court magistrate hearing the case observed that “no offence was disclosed with Hari Prasad's arrest and even if it was assumed that EVM was stolen it appears that there was no dishonest intention on his part .... he was trying to show how EVM machines can be tampered with.”

The magistrate went on to ask India's Election Commission to admit or disprove “the claim made by the accused that EVM machines could be tampered with.” If Prasad's underlying claims are false, action could be taken against him, he added, according to the news agency.

It was a significant departure from comments made at a hearing on Thursday, when a magistrate said police should be given more time to handle what he characterized as a sensitive case.

Prosecutors opposed the motion to release Prasad on bail, saying they needed more time to learn the identity of two activists from Maharashtra who allegedly helped him.

Prasad has claimed he obtained the EVM legally and returned it within two days, but has steadfastly refused to identify the source.

Reports didn't say whether Prasad is due to appear in court again over the matter. More coverage here ®

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