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HC prevents re-counting of votes

Staff Reporter

MADURAI: The Madras High Court on Wednesday set aside a decree passed by the Virudhunagar Principal District Judge on April 28 ordering a re-count of votes polled in the 2006 election to the post of Viswanatham panchayat president.

Allowing a civil revision petition filed by the incumbent president in the Madurai Bench, Justice V. Ramasubramanian said that the two reasons cited by the District Judge were not sufficient to order re-counting in an election petition filed by the runner-up. Firstly, the lower court had stated that though 9,513 ballot papers were distributed to the voters on the day of voting, the final tally totalled only 9,494, leaving the rest of 19 votes unaccounted for.

To this, Mr. Justice Ramasubramanian said: “A recount may not produce a different tally, since as per Rule 51 (2) of the Tamil Nadu Panchayats (Elections) Rules every elector was issued with only one ballot paper containing a serial number.”

The missing votes could be found out from Form 20 which contains the details such as ballot papers spoiled inadvertently by an elector or returned unused or cancelled for violation of voting procedures.

Unfortunately, neither the election petitioner nor the Returning Officer for the elections had produced the Form before the lower court, the Judge said and added that every contestant was issued with a copy of the Form.

Another way of finding the missing votes would be to order re-counting of votes polled for the post of president as well as panchayat members to find out whether they got mixed up. But again that would negate the principle of secrecy attached to ballot papers, the Judge added.

Secondly, the election petitioner had not come out with precise details but for making a general statement that 453 votes, including 300 in her favour, were “unlawfully” rejected as invalid by the Returning Officer.

The petitioner ought to have produced the notes taken by her authorised agents who were available at the time of counting in all 22 tables, the Judge said and added that a re-count could not be ordered in a petition bereft of “full material particulars.”

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