The Telegraph
Tuesday , April 17 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cloud on bar council elections

Ranchi, April 16: In Jharkhand, there is no end to poll problems.

After the Rajya Sabha polls, the very local Jharkhand State Bar Council elections, counting for which is on, has been caught in controversy with a number of allegations surfacing even as it emerged that votes of several lawyers had to be rejected.

While some appear to have made mistakes on the ballot paper out of sheer ignorance about the correct process of casting votes, it’s being increasingly believed that many purposely goofed up as their palms had not been greased by the candidates in fray.

According to sources, several lawyers scribbled dubious comments on the ballot papers, which pointed to the use of money power in the elections held on March 27. For example, one of them wrote “Bhent me vote nahi,” (mere holding a meeting will not get you vote) while another scribbled “fund ka shortage hai” (there is lack of funds).

“Statements like these suggest that the person concerned wanted something in return for his vote in favour of a particular candidate,” said a source.

According to returning officer Nawal Kishore Prasad, several votes were rejected as the lawyers marked their preference in numbers instead of words. “Rules say that an advocate has to write down his/her preference in words like one, two, three and so on against the candidates’ names. But many lawyers jotted down numbers like 1,2,3 and so on. A sizeable number of votes was also rejected as the lawyers gave their first preference to over half a dozen candidates,” Prasad said, adding some left the papers blank.

Though counting, which began on April 10, is on and it will take another three-four days to announce the first result, the number of rejected ballots was tipped to be around three per cent.

“This is, however, quite less compared to the votes rejected in the 2005 election,” said S.N. Roy, outgoing vice-chairman of the state bar council, who sought repoll. Around 10 per cent votes had been declared invalid in the last elections.

Roy added that some of the lawyers wrongly voted out of ignorance while others intentionally invalidated their ballot. “We had distributed over 15,000 pamphlets to educate the lawyers about the procedure to cast their votes,” he pointed out.

He further said complaints of use of unfair means in the elections had come to the fore, but they could not be verified. “We received a complaint about bogus voting in a closed room in Deoghar,” Roy said.

In fact, a lawyer from Gumla lodged a complaint today, saying that the ballot box had been tampered with and seeking cancellation of the elections.

Outgoing chairman of the bar council P.C. Tripathy also said some of the candidates had indulged in unfair means. “This trend should be discouraged. One cannot have high morals and hope to discipline the lawyers if he buys votes,” he told The Telegraph.

The returning officer, however, said no complaint on involvement of money power in the polls had been lodged yet.

“Jharkhand High Court lawyer Jagannath Mahto submitted a memorandum, mentioning a list of sweeping allegations, to me only yesterday. There was no specific charge as such,” Prasad added.

Around 10,200 of over 16,000 lawyers voted during the March 27 polls, in which as many as 100 candidates are in the fray for seats in the state bar council. A team of nine officials from the state Assembly has been put on the job of counting, which follows the procedure adopted for Rajya Sabha elections.

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