HC stays use of ‘e-Watch’ app till Feb. 9

Court asks SEC why it has not used PR dept’s app

The High Court on Friday imposed a stay on enabling and use of State Election Commission (SEC)’s ‘e-Watch’ mobile application till February 9, when the first phase of elections to gram panchayats (GPs) are scheduled to be conducted.

A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Arup Kumar Goswami and Justice C. Praveen Kumar agreed with the petitioners’ view that the SEC could have used ‘c-Vigil’, the existing mobile app of the Election Commission of India, or ‘Nighaa’ app developed by the Panchayat Raj Department (PRD) of the State, and posted the matter for further hearing on the above date.

Government Pleader C. Sumon insisted that the citizens would not be able to make an effective use of ‘e-Watch’ as there was not much publicity for it.

More importantly, he contended that ‘e-Watch’ did not have the security certificate required under the AP Cyber Security Policy 2017 and various GOs issued in its pursuance. Besides, it was not clear as to who developed the app and whether it had security features required to protect personal information of the citizens.

He also pointed out that the AP Technology Services (APTS) was the nodal agency for conducting a security audit and issuing the mandatory security certificate.

He further brought to the court’s notice that the SEC Secretary had written to the MD of APTS on February 4, 2021 for a security audit of the app and the agency was in that process and that it would normally take five days to ascertain the app’s security worthiness.

The court asked what purpose would be served by ‘e-Watch’ since the Model Code of Conduct had been in vogue since January 8 and the elections were due to begin in a few days’ time.

It also questioned the SEC why it had not used the app developed by the PRD which was available from March 8, 2020.

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