Kerala Varma College election row: HC annuls SFI candidate victory, orders fresh counting

The court directed the returning officer to carry out the counting of the votes strictly in accordance with clauses V(13) and V(14) of the bylaw to the college union election.
Kerala High Court.
Kerala High Court.

KOCHI: Kerala High Court on Tuesday annulled the victory of the SFI candidate Anirudhan K S in the union election of Sree Kerala Varma College in Thrissur and ordered a re-counting for the post of chairman as the counting of votes was not in accordance with the procedure prescribed.

The court directed the returning officer to carry out the counting of the votes strictly in accordance with clauses V(13) and V(14) of the bylaw to the college union election.

Justice T R Ravi issued the order on the petition filed by Sreekuttan S, KSU Chairman candidate seeking fresh elections to the post. According to him, earlier he was declared as the winner. But later, the returning officer ordered recounting following the external intervention. His rival SFI candidate Anirudhan KS was
then elected to the post after recounting at midnight.

During the hearing of the case, the court found that in the first counting, there were only 23 invalid votes and in recounting the invalid votes were increased to 27. The bylaw for the election stated that every ballot paper rejected shall be endorsed by the returning officer and such papers shall be kept separately. It was not followed in this case and pointed out that there was no specific reason in the complaint filed by the SFI candidate seeking re-counting. The complaint only stated that since there is some confusion regarding
the counting of votes there should be a recounting.

The documents produced in the court revealed that the KSU candidate had secured 896 votes while the SFI candidate garnered 895 votes. After the recounting of the votes, the SFI candidate secured 899 while KSU candidate got 889 votes.

The court pointed out that four votes that were initially valid were treated as invalid at the time of recounting. Since no endorsement has been made, it is not even clear whether all the 23 votes that were initially found to be invalid were treated as invalid during the recounting.

The petitioner submitted that even though the principal had directed them to stop the recounting, the manager intervened and directed them to continue it. There has been extraneous intervention that has vitiated the entire election process. During the recounting, invalid votes were included for recounting as
valid votes which are against the bylaw of the university, Hence the results in favour of the SFI candidate are illegal and a re-election is required.

The counsel for the petitioner said that a valid vote cannot be invalidated and an invalid vote cannot be validated under the guise of recounting. The counting is only to count the valid votes and it cannot include the votes which were already rejected as invalid.

The court said that the method followed is not permissible because of the bylaws which govern the elections. Even if the ballot papers were not kept separately, that does not permit the returning officer to do away with the endorsement of the rejected votes in the case of any post.

As per the bylaw, it's only after the separation of rejected votes the valid votes are counted and the votes polled by each candidate are ascertained. It follows that if a recount is to be done it has to be done from out of the valid votes.

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