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Andhra Pradesh HC stays launch of citizen reporting app by State Election Commission

The Andhra Pradesh High Court stayed the state’s election commission from launching a mobile app developed to report model code violations in the upcoming Gram Panchayat elections in the state, until February 9. The app, called e-Watch Online was launched by the the Andhra Pradesh State Election Commission on February 3, but immediately drew ire from the YSRCP, who claimed that the app was designed to favour the Telugu Desam Party.

Subsequently, a number of petitions were filed challenging the app’s rollout. One petition sought the High Court to direct the State Election Commission not to use the e-Watch app, claiming that the app was yet to obtain a necessary Security Audit Certificate, and was not in compliance with the National Cyber Security Policy, 2013, and the Andhra Pradesh Cyber Security Policy, 2017.

Another petition called the use of the app “arbitrary”, “illegal”, and a “colourable exercise of power” by the Andhra Pradesh State Election Commission. It also questioned the app’s need in the first place, given that India’s Election Commission already has an app to report model code violations and curb election-related malpractices called cVigil.

During the hearing, Senior Advocate C Sumon, appearing for the Andhra Pradesh government said that on February 4, the secretary of the Andhra Pradesh State Election Commission had written a letter to the managing director of the Andhra Pradesh Technology Services (APTS)—the state’s nodal agency to offer cybersecurity certifications to applications— requesting to issue a Security Audit Certificate for hosting the e-Watch app in the Andhra Pradesh State Data Centre server. However, N Ashwani Kumar, representing the Andhra Pradesh State Election Commission said that he wasn’t aware of the letter written to the APTS.

The matter will next be heard on February 9.

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