Protect postal ballots: HC to Election Commission

Chennai: The Madras High Court on Friday directed the Election Commission to preserve the postal ballots of the elderly voters, the differently abled and and the COVID-19-affected in strong rooms with CCTV cameras.

This directive was given so that there is no room for any complaint at a later stage.

The First Bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy gave the direction to this effect while disposing of two public interest writ petitions of the DMK.

Originally, while passing orders on a petition from the party, the Bench on March 16 directed the EC to furnish the details/list of these categories of voters to the major political parties by 6 PM on March 29.

Contending that in many constituencies the orders of the High Court were not implemented properly, the DMK had filed the petition.

It filed another petition for a direction to the EC to obtain the signatures of the agents/representatives of the respective political parties in the postal ballots in order to eliminate irregularities.

When the petitions came up for hearing today, EC’s senior counsel G Rajagopalan denied the allegations and told the Bench that the election officials were directed to receive the postal ballots only after furnishing the details/lists, 24 hours in advance.

On obtaining the signatures of agents/representatives, the counsel said the new procedure could not be followed as the time was too short.

It would be impossible to implement as there are too many contestants, he pointed out.

Recording the submissions, the Bench disposed of the petitions.

Meanwhile, in a separate case, the Bench rejected a PIL to re-introduce the old system of paper ballots for elections.

Alleging rampant irregularities in the usage of electronic voting machines (EVMs) and that there were no clear-cut guidelines in the Representation of the People Act, one Parthiban had preferred the petition.

EC’s counsel told the First Bench that the Supreme Court had already dismissed a similar plea.

There is no chance for the re-introduction of the age-old paper ballot system, he added.

Recording the submission, the Bench closed the petition.