Court upholds EC’s re-polling decisionAfter a nearly two month long hearing process, the Supreme Court on Sunday upheld the Election Commission’s decision to conduct re-polling at Ward 19 of Bharatpur Metropolitan City, where ballot papers were torn.
After a nearly two month long hearing process, the Supreme Court on Sunday upheld the Election Commission’s decision to conduct re-polling at Ward 19 of Bharatpur Metropolitan City, where ballot papers were torn.
Vote count in the ward was halted after CPN (Maoist Centre) cadres allegedly stormed into the counting centre and tore 90 ballots on May 28 during the first phase of local level elections.
The verdict created a public outcry with social media users expressing worry that the ruling might set a bad precedent on election.
A division bench of Justices Om Prakash Mishra and Purushottam Bhandari upheld the EC’s decision to go for re-polling despite the petitioners’ plea for continuing with the counting of votes instead.
Since the EC had taken the decision citing legal provisions, the verdict states, the petition would be annulled. The court also directed the EC to properly guard election materials.
Re-polling in Bharatpur was stalled after the apex court issued a stay order. Sunday’s verdict scraps the interim order issued by a single bench of Justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana.
Senior Advocates Laxmi Bahadur Nirala, Ram Prasad Shrestha, Satish Krishna Kharel, Rabi Khanal and Advocates Tikaram Bhattarai and Govinda Bandi, among others, had pleaded in favour of the writ petitioners claiming that re-polling could encourage people to tear ballot papers in future on various pretexts.
They had also demanded annulment of the EC decision claiming that the counting centre was not captured as claimed by election officials.
However, it has been observed that the counting centre was captured so as take advantage of section 50 of the Local Level Election Act. The writ petitioners had demanded continuance of vote counting considering the damaged votes as invalid.
But as section 51 of the Act clearly states that the votes damaged while taking them out from the box and those damaged by the spread of ink could be considered as invalid votes, the verdict enounced that the ballot papers damaged after capturing the counting centre cannot be considered to be invalid votes.
Attorney General Raman Kumar Shrestha and other government attorneys had pleaded against the writ.
With the court’s verdict, the EC will now announce the date for re-election in the Bharatpur ward.
On June 27, EC officials handed over necessary documents including the damaged ballot papers to the SC secretariat.
The EC on June 3 decided to conduct re-election in the ward based on a report prepared by a probe team.
CPN-UML mayoral candidate Devi Prasad Gyawali was leading the race with 733 votes against CPN (Maoist Centre)’s Renu Dahal, the daughter of former prime minister and Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, when the incident occurred.