Is Indian Institute of Architects falling apart? As protests grow against the alleged irregularities in the recent elections.

Haryana and West Bengal Chapters have urged the Indian Institute of Architects to suspend the election results, alleging faulty voting systems.

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The Indian Institute of Architects (IIA) continues to face backlash from several of its members over alleged unfair practices in its recent elections for the IIA representatives to the Council of Architecture. Architects Punit Sethi and Pradeep Kale had raised concerns about the election process after Sethi received just 14 votes from the Haryana chapter, despite a large number of members campaigning for him from Haryana. These members have also sent their complaints to the Charity Commissioner about the election results. Recently, the West Bengal Chapter also sent its grievances to the IIA, with a copy to the Council of Architecture, Charity Commissioner, and Education Ministry.

In response to the complaint by Pradeep Kale about the unfair conduct of elections and the request for a forensic audit, IIA president, Architect Vilas Avachat, mentioned,

In this regard, this is to inform you that, the precautionary measures regarding the security compliance of the e-voting module, were well taken before the elections.  As you are already aware, that the said e-voting module which was used in the recent Elections conducted by IIA, was submitted to Standardisation Testing and Quality Certification Directorate (STQC), Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology, Government of India to check the Security Compliance of the Module and accordingly the Security compliance certificate was obtained from STQC.

Furthermore, to remove the possibility of the involvement other than Scrutineers, as mentioned in the Voting Process which was uploaded on the IIA Website for the reference of Members, the access of the entire system was locked by the Scrutineers and the passwords of the systems were changed and kept in the custody of the Scrutineers.

Hence in light of the above, your request can not be considered.

Sethi and Kale were unsatisfied with IIA’s response to their complaints and have further questioned the integrity of the election module used, and the validity of the certification by STQC. Architect Kale’s email to IIA is below.

The module apparently faced some technical glitches during the National Elections in June 2023, which likely required resetting the software, erasing data, and modifying the code. As per standards, any changes to the certified software would necessitate re-certification. However, as per architect Pradeep Kale, IIA did not get the module re-certified by STQC after addressing the technical issues. This may mean that the STQC certification presented by IIA was essentially null and void at the time of the recent elections. A copy of STQC Compliance, which was obtained in May 2023, is attached below:

The failure to get re-certification after the glitches has raised serious concerns about the processes and auditability of the election module during the National Elections. In order to regain the trust of protesting members and chapters, IIA will need to thoroughly demonstrate that the software used was indeed certified and credible.

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For long, several IIA members have been demanding the use of NSDL’s services to ensure fair and transparent elections. However, IIA has refused to listen to these requests.

The Haryana chapter has come out in strong support of Punit Sethi and has asked the IIA to suspend the elections. A copy of the letter from the Haryana Chapter is below:

In an interview given to the architect and activist Ashok Goel, Punit Sethi explained his grievances about the election and how IIA’s undemocratic way of handling the complaints is an injustice to the members and is negatively affecting the reputation of the institute.

A similar letter, signalling protest against IIA and urging suspension of the election results by the West Bengal Chapter to the IIA (copied to the Ministry, CoA, and Charity Commissioner), read,

Both the chapters (Haryana and West Bengal) are currently awaiting the response from IIA to their letters.

In response to rising discontent, the Education Ministry has asked IIA to address the complainants’ concerns and provide a satisfactory resolution.

The election controversy has caused unrest among several IIA members nationwide. Many feel the organisation needs to take concrete steps to regain trust in its election processes and address the issues on priority. With two chapters already protesting, IIA faces reputational damage if it fails to satisfy their demands for fair and transparent elections.

Importantly, a large number of architects in India are not part of the IIA, despite it being the oldest body mandated to work for the welfare of the profession. This is likely, as a number of architects feel that IIA has failed on many fronts to fulfil its objectives over the years, becoming irrelevant to the profession. The election debacle and ongoing conflicts have further eroded faith in the institution. The coming days will be crucial in determining whether the pioneer architects’ body can restore faith among its members.

ArchitectureLive! has reached out to Architect Vilas Avachat, IIA President, and Saumya Gupta, IAS, Jt. Sec., Education Ministry, for their comments on the issue. The article will be updated with their comments as soon as we receive them.

2 Responses

  1. First of all, it is said that the protests are from two Chapters only. No, it is from two Regions, that means 50% of the Constituencies (2 out of 4 Regions) for which the Elections were conducted.
    Secondly, it has been a repeated well known affair of incidents / intervenes happened in all the Elections conducted during the voting times and called them as glitches in the voting. The very vital question is here that who attended those glitches getting into the System / Web-portal, whether the Administrator(s) or the Scrutineer(s) or by both with mutual knowledge / consent. A thorough clarification and verification of intervenes made then to be found out to know the nature, extent and purpose of them. Above all in this specific aspect, there is a condition of Certification by STQC in the item 2 of its Conclusion that this Compliance Certificate becomes null and void, once if any handling of runtime error & external resources happened. The so-called glitches during the voting times were nothing but errors and further the intrusion/hacking happened in the 2020 election immediately after the voting time into the Site of Web-portal by outsiders was nothing but handling by external resources. Further, it leads to conclude that the Certificate Organisation itself has been accepting the possibilities of errors and intrusion of external resources in this Election Portal. While so, where is the definite undisputed status ensured in the Online Voting System, as if anyone could possibly enter into the house, though all the doors are locked.
    Thirdly, the basic question is that how the Elections were conducted at IIA without the supervision of Returning Officer appointed by the Ministry of Education when there was an Order / Judgment of Madras High Court, which was then twice confirmed on appeals. Being the Election is a continuous process, its system once amended and intervened into the process of conduction by the Court, more particularly on something for better, it automatically becomes as a part of Rule of Procedure (or like Bylaw) to be followed thereafter. This legal requirement is a grave omission committed by IIA.
    Fourthly, when the Bye-law amendments on Online Voting itself is not authenticated / approved by the Authority of Charity Commissioner and made changes in the Public Records of CC, the amendments automatically become null and void. Even in the case of Government, if it makes any amendment to any Rules / Regulations, it could be immediately enforced and implemented, but it is required to be placed before the houses of Parliament for its consent during the immediate next session. If not, those amendment(s) automatically loose validity and becomes null and void. Here in this issue, IIA is free to proceed with the enforcement of amendments made to its Byelaw(s), but if such amendments are not approved and accepted and made the Change Report in the Public records by the Charity Commissioner within the time stipulated in the Maharashtra Public Trusts Act, 1950, the amendments automatically would lose its validity and cannot be enforced thereafter. Therefore, all the Elections conducted by IIA through Online Voting System without the Statutory approval of Charity Commissioner are nothing, but illegal.

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