A Delhi court has held that the judiciary is empowered to examine the ballot papers in an election in the interest of promoting transparency in voting.
Adjudicating a dispute relating to rejection of votes in the Delhi Cantonment Board elections,Additional District Judge (ADJ) Kamini Lau observed that a court had “inherent power” to inspect records materially affecting the practice of a free and fair election. “Once a voter has cast his or her vote,the intent to participate in the democratic process is evident. In order to respect the intent of voters,a court can always ask authorities to produce relevant records before it,” remarked the judge.
Lau emphasised that access to such documents could not be denied citing the principle of secret ballot since the production of such records before a judicial officer did not amount to making them public. Moreover,such an election petition would involve larger questions pertaining to violation of the standards set by the Election Commission for free and fair elections. The court held that improper acceptance or rejection of votes by the Returning Officer was a ground for setting aside an election.
In the present case,one A K M Bhaginath had challenged the election of BJP candidate Pradeep Kadyan from Uri Enclave in Delhi Cantonment Board elections claiming that the Returning Officer had fraudulently rejected hundreds of votes. He had requested the court to examine the rejected votes. The returning officer concerned had,however,cited certain rules against producing the ballot papers.
Lau has now asked the authorities to bring before the court the instruments used for stamping the distinguishing mark on ballot papers and other articles necessary for the elector to mark the ballot papers. The court has asked to be produced before it the rejected votes as well as the validly cast votes of a another ward,alleged to be improperly stamped,on March 16,the next date of hearing.