Kannan Gopinathan is a former officer of the Indian Administrative Services. In late August, about seven years after he had joined the IAS, Gopinathan resigned from the services. He told the media that his resignation was related the communications blockade that the Indian government enforced in Kashmir, after it revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, enshrined in Article 370 of the Constitution. “If you ask me what you were doing, when one of the world’s largest democracies announced a ban on the entire state, and even violated the fundamental rights of the people, I should at least be able to reply that I resigned my job,” Gopinathan told the Indian Express. “There has been a lack of response to it,” he told The Hindu. “We seem to be perfectly fine with it.”
When he resigned, Gopinathan was serving as a secretary in Dadra and Nagar Haveli, a union territory. During the 2019 parliamentary elections, he had served as the returning officer—an election officer in charge of overseeing results—in the union territory. In September, Gopinathan posted on Twitter about possible vulnerabilities in the voting system employed during the election, which consists of electronic-voting machines and a voter-verifiable paper audit trails. The introduction of VVPATs into the voting process has “created a hole in the EVM armor & made the process amenable to hacking,” he posted. He based his hypothesis on information available publicly and on the Election Commission of India website. Sreerag PS, an independent journalist, interviewed Gopinathan about his conclusions, and about events that have unfolded since the bureaucrat resigned his post.
Sreerag PS: You wrote on Twitter that there are loopholes in the electoral process. Could you explain these?
Kannan Gopinathan: I have specifically raised a concern that the introduction of VVPATs has added certain vulnerabilities to an otherwise foolproof election process. With the introduction of VVPATs, two things have happened. One is that the VVPATs come in between the ballot unit [which voters use to cast their vote] and the control unit [which electronically records the vote]. Earlier, the ballot unit used to directly talk to the control unit, now the ballot unit talks to the VVPAT, and the VVPAT talks to the control unit.