VELLORE: Three years after it was held, the Principal District Court has declared as null and void the election for the post of president of Valayathur panchayat in Tirimiri and pronounced the petitioner as the winning candidate.
Delivering the verdict, judge AVR Deenadayalan said the announcement of K Kali as the Valayathur panchayat president, pursuant to the election held on October 17, 2011, as “null and void, ultra vires and illegal”. “It is further declared that the petitioner R Santhi is the winning candidate of the election held for the post of the panchayat of Valayathur village,” the judge said on Thursday.
Petitioner Santhi approached the court saying the district collector, who was the district election officer, and the BDO of Timiri, who was the election commissioner, had colluded with the ruling party and manipulated the postal votes in favour of Kali. Santhi submitted that she polled 1,158 votes, while her rival candidate Kali got 1,155 votes. Though Santhi was declared winner initially, the Returning Officer (RO) delayed issuing the certificate of election to her. Officials later stated that out of the 22 postal votes received, 16 were in favour of Kali and four for Santhi and declared Kali as winning candidate.
According to Rule 52 (2) of the Tamil Nadu Panchayat (Elections Rules) 1995, postal vote should have a declaration (form 17) along with the ballot and the elector shall sign the form. It should reach the RO before 5 pm on the day before the poll. “However, the RO said there were no postal votes before voting commenced on October 17, 2011. Apart from this, of the 20 postal votes, only two had the declaration form,” Santhi’s advocate said.
The court, on January 30, 2015, appointed an advocate commissioner to shoulder the assignment of recounting of the postal ballots and passed an order directing the Collector and the BDO to produce the declaration forms for the postal votes. But the RO and BDO did not submit them. In the meantime, the advocate commissioner found declaration forms in only two of the postal votes out of 20 and submitted a report to the court.
“The postal votes without declaration forms are invalid votes, according to the rules,” the advocate said. Based on the evidence submitted, the judge pronounced Santhi as the winning candidate.