28 July 2023 9:25 AM GMT
The Supreme Court on Friday issued a notice in a petition filed by K Muthu Sumathi, a candidate of Communist Party of India challenging the election of AIADMK candidate K.Chokkayee as a Councillor in Madurai Corporation in 2022. The petitioner sought a recount of votes alleging irregularities by erring officials. The officials had declared an AIADMK candidate as the winner by 4 votes.The...
The Supreme Court on Friday issued a notice in a petition filed by K Muthu Sumathi, a candidate of Communist Party of India challenging the election of AIADMK candidate K.Chokkayee as a Councillor in Madurai Corporation in 2022. The petitioner sought a recount of votes alleging irregularities by erring officials. The officials had declared an AIADMK candidate as the winner by 4 votes.
The bench comprising Justices Aniruddh Bose and Justice Bela M Trivedi heard the petition filed against the Madras High Court's order dismissing the plea.
The petitioner highlighted that the Election Rules mandate two key obligations- handing over data which contains vote details to the candidate and providing a reasonable opportunity for raising grievances and requesting a recount of votes. He submitted that these obligations were not fulfilled.
Justice Bose asked, “What about the issue being time-barred?”
The petitioner's lawyer responded that no opportunity was given for raising an objection. In one of the booths, the data of votes was left blank. He alleged that the respondents announced the results and immediately declared other candidate as the winner.
He firmly argued that this was a complete infraction of the rules.
Justice Bela Trivedi questioned, “You should've challenged the rules then”?
The appellant countered that “ I am aggrieved by non-adherence to the rules”
Justice Bose probed further asking whether the petitioner had raised objections at the time of the election results announcement.
The petitioner responded, "Yes, on the 22nd, when the results were announced, I raised objections that day itself."
Justice Bose inquired about the revision petition filed before the High Court and how the matter was dealt with.
The petitioner disclosed, "It said that this was time-barred. It didn't go into the merits."
He argued that the election provision itself had not been adhered to, leading to a violation of the rules. He asserted that even the winning candidate had no objections to a recount of votes. He placed the blame squarely on the erring officials who failed to follow the prescribed rules. After hearing the submissions, the Court issued notice.
Petitioner was represented by A. Velan (AOR)
BACKGROUND OF THE CASE
The Appellant is a CPI party candidate who contested for the post of Councilor of Ward No.26 of Madurai Corporation. The polling of votes was conducted on 19.02.2022. Her rival AIADMK was declared the winner by 4 votes.
The appellant’s grievance was that the Presiding Officer has not given the actual number of votes secured and recorded in booth no.320, which eventually led to malpractice and favoritism. She filed a petition before Additional District Court, Election Tribunal, Madurai, for a declaration and for recounting of the votes. The trial Court on 28.10.2022, dismissed this application. Aggrieved by the same, the appellant filed a revision petition before High Court.
The appellant argued that no reasonable opportunity was given to her as contemplated under Rules 88(1) and 88(5) of Tamil Nadu Town Panchayats, Third Grade Municipalities and Municipal and Corporation Councils (Elections) Rules, 2006, to raise a request for recounting.
On the same day, through an email, she requested for re-totaling and recounting of votes, after the counting of votes.
The respondent had contended before the HC that when the votes were counted and announced in the speaker, no objection was given by the petitioner and that therefore, they went on to declare the result and that this petition was filed only after the declaration of results.
The High Court held that there was a clear statutory embargo under Rule 88(1) that after the declaration of results, an application for recounting of results cannot be filed and dismissed the revision petition.
The High Court relied on Vadivelu v. Sundaram [(2000) 8 SCC 355] which held that “Re-count of votes could be ordered very rarely and on the specific allegation in the pleadings in the election petition that illegality or irregularity was committed while counting. The petitioner who seeks re-count should allege and prove that there was improper acceptance of invalid votes or improper rejection of valid votes. If only the court is satisfied with the truthfulness of the above allegation, it can order a re-count of votes.”
Case title: K Muthu Sumathi v. The Tamil Nadu State Election Commission
Diary Number: 27546/2023