HC suspends SEC circular on ballot mark

A circular issued by the State Election Commission (SEC) hours before polling began in GHMC elections on Friday attracted wide attention with BJP leaders securing an order from the Telangana High Court staying it, while the SEC filed an appeal, which is likely to be heard on Saturday.

Two persons, K. Anthony Reddy and K. Surender, both from BJP, filed the writ petition by moving a House Motion in the High Court.

The petitioners challenged the SEC’s circular which stated that all ballot papers of GHMC polls having a ‘distinguished mark’ other than that of cross-mark of rubber stamp were valid.

They contended that declaring ballot papers having ‘distinguished mark’ as valid was against already announced standard procedures.

Describing the circular as vague, the petitioners stated that the SEC deliberately refrained from explaining what exactly was the ‘distinguished mark’.

Seeking to set aside the SEC’s circular, the petitioners requested the court to order for a judicial inquiry by retired High Court judge into the alleged malpractices of the SEC. The SEC’s counsel G. Vidyasagar Rao, however, contended that the said circular was issued to clarify doubts raised by polling staff, who stated that they were supplied with marking instruments which were different from the arrow cross-mark rubber stamps.

The SEC noticed this and changed the marking instruments. By then, already some voters had cast their votes and hence the SEC had to issue that circular, Mr. Rao told the court. After hearing contentions of the petitioners and the SEC’s counsel, the single judge suspended the SEC’s circular.

He directed the SEC to keep the ballot papers having ‘distinguished mark’ separately. If the margin of votes cast in favour of first and second candidates is more than the disputed ballot papers, the result can be declared, the order said.

However, only in Neredmet division of Malkajgiri’s GHMC circle such a dispute arose. The election officers withheld the result of this division as the disputed ballot papers outnumbered the margin secured by one of the candidates. In all other divisions, no such dispute was witnessed.

Meanwhile, the SEC filed an appeal challenging the single judge order by way of House Motion. This is likely to be heard by a Bench of Chief Justice Raghvendra Singh Chauhan on Saturday.

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