Supreme Court refuses septuagenarian’s plea for postal ballot in LS polls

The petitioner Sarla Srivastav had wanted to vote by postal ballot in the Lok Sabha elections from the Bilaspur constituency in Chhattisgarh

Updated - May 20, 2024 03:05 pm IST

Published - May 20, 2024 02:54 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Justice Bela M. Trivedi, heading a Supreme Court Vacation Bench, orally remarked “everybody would like to sit at home and cast their votes” while dismissing a 78-year-old Sarla Srivastav’s plea to exercise her constitutional right via postal ballot. File

Justice Bela M. Trivedi, heading a Supreme Court Vacation Bench, orally remarked “everybody would like to sit at home and cast their votes” while dismissing a 78-year-old Sarla Srivastav’s plea to exercise her constitutional right via postal ballot. File | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

Justice Bela M. Trivedi, heading a Supreme Court Vacation Bench, orally remarked “everybody would like to sit at home and cast their votes” while dismissing a 78-year-old woman’s plea to exercise her constitutional right via postal ballot.

The Bench, also comprising Justice Pankaj Mithal, on May 20 dismissed the petition by Sarla Srivastav, represented by senior advocate Gaurav Agarwal and advocate Pranav Sachdeva, who said she was suffering from severe osteoarthritis in both knees and was bedridden for the past three months.

She had wanted to vote by postal ballot in the Lok Sabha elections from the Bilaspur constituency in Chhattisgarh.

The polling happened in Bilaspur constituency on May 7. However, Ms. Srivastsav said that was the date for EVM voting and not postal ballot. Moreover, the Election Commission of India (ECI) always had the power to announce new polling dates for “any sufficient reasons”.

Ms. Srivastav’s petition was an appeal against Chhattisgarh High Court’s refusal to give her permission to vote through postal ballot in an order on May 6. The High Court had said it was too late in the day to do anything.

“The petitioner is a citizen of India; her name is present in the electoral roll; she has the right to cast her vote as she is not disqualified otherwise; and, more particularly, she is unable to walk and a medical certificate has been issued by a medical practitioner in her favour in this regard… Petitioner wants to exercise her constitutional right or, in other words, political franchise to cast her vote in the ensuing parliamentary election in the Bilaspur constituency,” the petition urged.

However, the Vacation Bench referred to an order of the Returning Officer (RO) on May 1.

This order said Ms. Srivastav was 75-years-old. The prescribed age for ‘Absentee Voter under Senior Citizen’ category is 85 years according to Election Commission instructions.

Secondly, the order said Ms. Srivastav was neither flagged as Persons with Disability (PwD) voter in the database of electoral roll nor has she submitted a “benchmark disability certificate” issued under the Chhattisgarh Rights of Persons with Disability Rules 2023. Hence, she could not be considered ‘Absentee Voter under Persons with Disability’ category.

Further, she had not produced any health certificate regarding being affected from COVID 19 nor was she employed in the essential services category requiring the postal ballot facility, the RO had noted.

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