Postal ballots: SC refuses to entertain YSRC plea

The YSR Congress Party had challenged the ECI’s circular on the grounds that it was discriminatory to the State.
Supreme Court of India
Supreme Court of IndiaFile Photo | PTI

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday refused to entertain YSRC’s plea, challenging the May 30 order of the Election Commission of India (ECI) on the counting of votes cast through postal ballots in Andhra Pradesh.

The two-judge vacation Bench of the top court, comprising Justices Arvind Kumar and Sandeep Mehta, said there was no need to interfere with the Andhra Pradesh High Court’s decision to decline relief to the political party since an election petition can be filed in the matter. “In the facts and circumstances of this case, we refuse to interfere,” the Supreme Court said.

In its order dated May 30, the poll panel directed the election officers to consider postal ballots as valid even if the declaration form (Form 13A) has only the attesting officer’s signature and no name, designation or seal. The YSR Congress Party had challenged the ECI’s circular on the grounds that it was discriminatory to the State.

On Saturday, the Andhra Pradesh High Court had disposed of YSRC’s petition challenging the ECI’s order and maintained that it could not intervene now as the election process has already commenced.

The division bench, comprising Justices M Kiranmayi and N Vijay, which heard YSRC State general secretary Lella Appi Reddy’s petition on Friday, advised the petitioner to file an election petition (EP) after the election process is completed to raise objections, if any.

The petitioner’s counsel had pointed out that 5.5 lakh votes were cast through the postal ballots in Andhra Pradesh, hence they play a crucial role in determining the winner and loser in the elections. They argued that the ECI’s order is against the norms and that the poll panel has no right to amend the norms. Contending that such amendments cannot be made through executive orders, they said the ECI’s action in this regard is against the rules of conducting elections.

However, the high court agreed with the ECI counsel’s argument that once the election process has commenced, the court cannot intervene. It pointed out that counting of postal ballots is also a declaration of election results. The dispute could only be resolved by the election petition and not through any ordinary lawsuits, the bench observed.

The HC had also set aside the argument that filing an Election Petition for 175 Assembly and 25 Lok Sabha constituencies will be a difficult task. It did not consider the argument that the ECI orders concerning postal ballots were only for AP.

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