New Delhi, Feb. 6: When both contestants poll the same number of votes, draw lots.
That’s the solution the Supreme Court came up with recently when it conducted a draw of lots to decide the winner in an election dispute.
The top court also said that when an election petition is filed before a high court, it has to ensure that only the disputed invalid votes are counted, not all the votes polled. Otherwise, the bench of Justices B.S. Chauhan, J. Chelameshwar and M.Y. Eqbal said, it would lead to a “dangerous disorientation” by providing the “scope for reopening of declared results”.
The court made it clear the secrecy of ballot was “sacrosanct” as it upheld the victory of Arikala Narasa Reddy.
Arikala’s election to the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Council was set aside by the state’s high court that had ordered a recount of all the votes cast. Arikala moved the top court against the 2012 judgment, which had declared his rival Venkata Ram Reddy Reddygari the winner in the 2009 poll.
Reddygari had filed the petition on the grounds that some invalid votes were counted in favour of his rival and some valid votes cast in his favour were declared invalid.
In all, 701 votes were cast. Initially both candidates were said to have polled 336 each, while 29 votes were found invalid. After the returning officer allowed a recount, Arikala was found to have polled 336 and Reddygari 335. Thirty votes were found invalid.
In the high court both candidates focused on four invalid votes, each claiming they had been cast in his favour. But the court ordered a recount of all the votes and declared Reddygari the winner by two votes.
On Arikala’s appeal, the top court conducted a fresh examination of the invalid votes and declared that both Arikala and Reddygari had got 336 votes. The winner had to be decided by a draw of lots, according to Section 102 of the Representation of People Act, it said.