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Telangana HC keeps SEC order on ballot papers in abeyance

The court passed this order in the house motion moved by the BJP and posted the matter for further hearing on Monday.

Counting of votes for the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation elections, in Hyderabad, on December 4, 2020. The Telangana High Court allowed the counting process to continue. (Source: GHMC)

The Telangana High Court on Friday kept in abeyance the latest order of the Telangana State Election Commission that allowed counting of ballot papers with distinguishing markings instead of the arrow cross-mark rubber stamp as valid votes. It, however, allowed counting of votes to continue.

On Thursday, Secretary of SEC M Ashok Kumar clarified “if the intention of the voter is clear on marking to a particular candidate, that vote can be treated as a valid vote to the candidate since it is the mistake of the polling personnel under rule 51(h) of Conduct of Election Rules, 2005.

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The results of those divisions where the ballots with such distinguish markers cannot impact final results can be announced, the court said, directing the SEC to not declare results where the ballots with distinguished markers are in majority. The court passed this order in the house motion moved by the BJP and posted the matter for further hearing on Monday.

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The HC order read: “The impugned letter, dated 03.12.2020, is suspended for the present. However, the Telangana State Election Commission is directed to inform the Returning Officers and other Officers to keep the ballot papers, which are not marked with the ‘Arrow Cross Mark’ separately and keep a count of those disputed ballot papers till the writ petition is decided. If the margin of difference in the votes polled in favor of the First and Second candidate is more than the disputed ballot papers, the Election Officer is free to declare the results. If the margin is less than the disputed ballot papers, then the disputed ballot papers shall not be taken into account and the results of that Ward may not be declared. The disputed ballot papers shall be kept in safe custody along with other ballot papers, as per the rules in vogue. Post on 07.12.2020 to enable the learned Standing Counsels to file their counters.”

Welcoming the order as Telangana BJP’s victory, the party’s chief state spokesperson K Krishna Saagar Rao told indianexpress.com: “Counting will proceed. There won’t be much of a difference but a slight delay if ticked-marked ballots are more, that particular candidate could lose,” he said.

First published on: 04-12-2020 at 12:27:54 pm
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