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IndiaEnsure postal ballots counted first, guidelines followed: INDIA bloc to EC

Ensure postal ballots counted first, guidelines followed: INDIA bloc to EC


New Delhi, Jun 2: Leaders from the opposition bloc urged the Election Commission (EC) on Sunday to ensure that on June 4, the postal ballots are counted and their results declared before the outcome of the EVMs is announced, and stressed that the poll panel should issue clear guidelines on the counting process and ensure that those are implemented.

A delegation of leaders from the Indian Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) met the full bench of the EC on Sunday, ahead of Tuesday's counting of the votes polled in the Lok Sabha election.

Briefing the media after the meeting, Congress leader Abhishek Singhvi said this was the third time that a delegation of opposition leaders visited the poll panel during the general election and, among other things, urged the officials to ensure that the postal ballots are counted and their results declared before the results of the electronic voting machines (EVMs) are announced.

“This is the third multi-party delegation visiting the EC during this process…. We spent time with the EC on two-three major issues. Most important was counting the postal ballots and declaring the results first. This is a very clearly stated statutory rule, which specifically says that you should take up the postal ballots first,” Singhvi said.

“Our complaint is that this guideline has been given a go-by. They have repealed the practice,” he added.

In a to the EC, the leaders said the number of postal ballots has gone up significantly in this Lok Sabha election as senior citizens (aged 85 years and above) and differently-abled persons were allowed to cast their votes through this process.

They quoted various rules and guidelines of the EC, including provisions of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 and Handbook for Returning Officer and Counting Agents (August 2023), that said the counting of postal ballots shall be done first.

Another letter, signed by 13 opposition leaders, including Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, Nationalist Congress Party (SP) president Sharad Pawar and CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, said even as political parties have put in a lot of effort to train their counting agents, the counting officials often fail to fully understand all aspects of the counting process.

Elaborating on the opposition's demands, Yechury said the leaders have requested the EC to ensure that its own guidelines are implemented. The guidelines include ensuring that the control units of the EVMs are moved through CCTV-monitored corridors and a verification of the date-and-time display of the control units is done.

“This verification is important because unless it is done, there is no authenticity that it is the same control unit that came from the polling booth, that it has not been changed,” he said.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader also said the start and end time and the date of the polling process should be checked on the control unit.

“The slips and tags that are put when an EVM is sealed should be shown to all the counting agents for verification. After pressing the button for the results, reconfirming the date of polling is not done … that has to be ensured,” he said.

In their letter, the opposition leaders said the feedback from their counting agents for earlier polls indicates that these slips and tags are not shown to them and when they request to see those, the counting staff demands a written rule or circular stating that these details must be shown to them.

The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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