Tamil Nadu

HC orders production of 102 rejected postal votes

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VCK chief had lost in Kattumannarkovil by a thin margin

Passing interim orders on an election petition filed by VCK leader Thol. Thirumavalavan, who lost to N. Murugumaran of the AIADMK by a thin margin of 87 votes in the Kattumannarkovil Assembly constituency in 2016, the Madras HC has ordered the production of the 102 postal votes that were rejected for reasons such as ‘no marking’ or ‘voter unidentified’.

Justice C.V. Karthikeyan directed the constituency’s Returning Officer (RO) R. Muthukumaraswamy to be present in court on January 20, along with the 102 rejected postal votes, so that the judge could personally verify the reasons for the rejection and ascertain their validity. The judge issued the direction after reopening the case, in which arguments had been concluded and judgment reserved on December 18.

The prime ground on which Mr. Thirumavalavan — now a Member of Parliament representing the Chidambaram constituency — had filed the election petition in 2016 was that the rejection of the 102 postal votes was wrong. Noting that the RO had rejected one postal vote for the reason ‘no marking’ and the remaining 101 for the reason ‘voter unidentified’, he argued that all the 102 votes should have been taken into account.

When the judge was perusing the documents after reserving the verdict, he found that the petitioner’s counsel had summoned the RO and examined him as a court witness. However, neither the petitioner’s counsel nor the respondent’s (Mr. Murugumaran’s) counsel had taken any steps to call upon the official to produce the 102 postal votes in court so that the judge could peruse them and find out whether their rejection was valid.

“Delivering a judgment on merits without examining the same would not be just and fair, and even though the parties have deliberately, and for reasons only known to them, shirked their responsibility of seeking production of 102 postal ballots, in order to do complete justice, I hold that this court should peruse the same,” Justice Karthikeyan said. This is the second instance in the recent past of the Madras HC passing an order on an election petition related to a dispute over the counting of postal votes.

Passing interim orders on an election petition filed by M. Appavu of the DMK, who had lost to the AIADMK’s I.S. Inbadurai in the Radhapuram Assembly constituency by a slender margin of 47 votes in 2016, Justice G. Jayachandran in October last ordered the recounting of all postal votes. Accordingly, the postal ballots of that constituency were brought to the HC buildings, and the counting was lso completed under the supervision of a Registrar. Nevertheless, the results of the count were not declared, and the HC could not proceed further in the case due to an interim order passed by the Supreme Court on an appeal moved by Mr. Inbadurai, challenging the HC’s direction to recount the postal votes.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2020 3:12:40 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/hc-orders-production-of-102-rejected-postal-votes/article30482005.ece

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