Make stand clear on scrapping booth-wise counting of votes: SC to Centre

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New Delhi, Sep 8: The Supreme Court on Monday pulled up the Centre for not taking decision on Election Commission's request to do away with counting of votes on a booth-wise basis and asked it to make its stand clear within four weeks.

The apex court also sought response from the Election Commission on whether it can be done without bringing any amendment to existing rules.

A bench headed by Chief Justice R M Lodha said counting of votes on a booth-wise basis can result in post election vindictive approach of the winning candidates towards that booth if he didn't get votes from there. It raised question on why the Centre has referred the issue to Law Commission and has not taken any decision itself in the last five years when the Commission had written letter to it on the issue.

"The Election Commission is an expert body and it knows its job well. What Law Commission would do on the issue. It is almost five years and 10 months since the Commission wrote to you," the bench, also comprising Kurian Joseph and R F Nariman, said.

"Law Commission has nothing to do in this issue. We must know what is your response," the bench said, adding, "You can't keep the matter pending by putting it on the shoulder of Law Commission".

It said that Centre considered the issue in 2011 and then went to sleep on the issue and the government again took up the matter in 2013 but did not pursue it. The apex court had on May 12 sought response of the EC on a plea seeking stoppage of ward-wise counting of votes on the ground that the declaration of result of every polling booth strikes at the root of right to privacy attached to voting.

The bench was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Punjab-based advocate Yogesh Gupta who contended that "the uniform way of declaration of result for the entire constituency as a whole would bring balanced growth and balanced funding and it would also reduce cases fuelled by political vendetta, ill-will and hatred".

To buttress his contention that an amendment in the system would reduce intimidation and blackmail tactics, the lawyer had cited reported threat by Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar to residents of Baramati village on the eve of last polling in general election that he would cut off water supply if they did not cast their ballot in favour of his cousin and sitting NCP MP Supriya Sule.

"In the present form of declaration of result the political parties would become aware of the wards where they have not been voted and where they have got maximum votes," the petition said, arguing that the existing system of declaration of results also acts as a catalyst for the registration of false cases based on political vendetta against the persons who have not voted for the victorious parties".


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