Andhra Pradesh HC reserves verdict on plea over postal ballots

Arguing that the election process cannot be challenged, he requested the Court not to intervene in the matter at this juncture.
Representative Image
Representative Image

VIJAYAWADA: The Andhra Pradesh High Court on Friday reserved its verdict on a petition filed by the YSRC, contesting the latest order issued by the Election Commission of India (ECI) on postal ballots. The High Court will deliver its verdict at 6 pm on Saturday.

In its order dated May 30, the ECI asked the election officers to consider postal ballots as valid even if the declaration form (Form 13 A) has only the attesting officer’s signature and no name, designation or seal. The poll panel submitted to the High Court that its circular concerning the postal ballots was per its guidelines only. On Friday, a division bench, comprising Justices M Kiranmayee and N Vijay, heard YSRC State general secretary L Appi Reddy’s petition, contesting ECI’s orders on the postal ballots. 

‘5.5L postal ballots play crucial role in poll fortunes’

Appearing for the petitioner, Supreme Court advocate Abhishek Singhvi and senior advocate P Veera Reddy 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.

They added that such an order, issued four days before the day of counting, raises several apprehensions. They asserted that when the ECI’s orders are against norms, the Court has every right to intervene. Further, they urged the court to stay the ECI orders issued on May 30 and dismiss the same.

Appearing for the Election Commission, senior advocate Avinash Desai submitted to the court that the poll panel’s order is only applicable to the employees on election duty who availed postal ballots at the facilitation centres.

The attesting officer at those facilitation centres was appointed by the Returning Officer, hence the signature of the attending officer at those facilitation centres will suffice and there is no need for his name, designation, and seal, Desai argued.

He further submitted to the court that the entire process of people voting through the postal ballot was video recorded and that political representatives were also present at the facilitation centres. He asserted that employees at the facilitation centres were all allowed to cast their vote through the postal ballot as per rule 18 (A) brought in 2023.

Avinash further explained that in other types of postal ballots, Group A and B officers attest the forms, but in the case of the employees on election duty, the officer appointed by the Returning Officer attests Form 13A.

Arguing that the election process cannot be challenged, he requested the Court not to intervene in the matter at this juncture. He said if there are any objections, an Election Petition can be filed after the election process is completed. He prayed the court to dismiss the petition.

Arguing for the TDP’s implead petition, advocates Posani Venkateswaralu and Padiri Ravi Teja brought the Election Commission rules to the notice of the Court.

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