The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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SC stiffens poll recount rules

New Delhi, Nov. 26: The Supreme Court today ruled that a returning officer cannot order recounting of votes after the declaration of an election result.

However, the ruling does not alter the present position of law that during the process of counting of ballots, or after the counting is over but before the result is declared, a candidate can press for recounting for which an order could be issued by the returning officer.

The ruling was handed down by a bench of Justices M.B. Shah, S.N. Variava and D.M. Dharmadhikari that disposed of a petition challenging the election of a panchayat sarpanch in Madhya Pradesh.

The case started on January 20, 2000, when the returning officer concerned “orally” informed a candidate that he had won. However, the official result declared his rival elected.

The defeated candidate pressed for recounting, which was ordered by the returning officer, and was later declared elected. His rival, who was initially shown as the official winner, challenged it in the high court.

The court remanded the matter back to the officer, who ordered another round of recounting.

This time, the defeated candidate again moved the high court, which held that a court could not order recounting unless a party to the election case first applied to the returning officer concerned. This ruling was challenged in the apex court.

The Supreme Court today said a returning officer cannot order for recounting once the results were “officially declared” and the best that he could do was “only correct a clerical mistake”.

“After declaration of result, the RO (returning officer) has no power to direct recount or to change the results of the election. Once the result is declared, the only remedy of an aggrieved party is an election petition,” it said.

However, the apex court sent back to the high court the matter to decide about the winning candidate in the panchayat poll case.

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