Bombay HC Dismisses Petition Filed By Congress And Its Candidate From Nagpur Nana Patole On The Day Of Counting [Read Order]
The Bombay High Court on Thursday, the day of the counting of votes in the Lok Sabha elections of 2019, dismissed a petition filed by the Nagpur Shahar Congress Committee and Congress party's candidate from Nagpur, Nana Patole seeking directions to the Returning Officer (RO) to allow the candidate himself or his agent on the table of the Assistant Returning Officers (ARO).
Justice PV Ganediwala of the Nagpur bench concluded that there was no merit in the petition and dismissed it.
The voting took place on April 11, 2019 and Nana Patole was asked to submit names of his counting agents. Patole learnt that the concerned RO had not allowed counting agents at ARO tables and filed the said petition a day before the results.
Court examined the "Hand Book for Returning Officer" (Manual) issued by the Election Commission of India in February 2019.
Assistant Government Pleader NP Mehta submitted that the role of ARO is only to supervise counting process and to fill up the result sheet (Part-I of Form No.20), and after completion of counting of votes, to submit the said result sheet to the RO to prepare PartII of the said Form20.
Mehta also informed the bench on behalf of the State that they were scrupulously following all rules of the manual for the purposes of counting votes.
"As per the said Manual, the duty of AROs is to supervise the counting process and to prepare PartI of Form20 (Result Sheets) on the basis of computation and compilation of data from each table at the conclusion of a round.
Learned counsel for the petitioners could not show to this Court any Rule which provides an independent and separate table for AROs for the purpose of counting of votes."
However, as per Rule 15.4.11, in the case of election from a Parliamentary Constituency, the counting of votes may have to be done at different places for the various assembly segments comprised within that Parliamentary Constituency, such counting may be done under the supervision of AROs, as they are also legally competent to take up counting.
Court observed that in the present case, the counting of votes would not be done at different places. The function of the AROs would still be to supervise the counting process under the directions and control of RO and prepare result sheet) by sitting on the table alongside the RO's table after completion of counting of votes. Also, the presence of candidate or his agent is already allowed as per Rule 15.5.7, Court noted.
Finally, Court said-
"Learned counsel for the petitioners could not justify the reliefs sought in this petition visavis the Rules in the Manual. Learned Assistant Government Pleader on behalf of the State has already conceded that the Returning Officer is following the Rules scrupulously. In the above conspectus, there is no substance in the petition. Therefore, there is no need of any direction."