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Returning officer has final say in recount of votes

Topics Covered: RPA related issues.

Returning officer has final say in recount of votes:


Context:

The Election Commission of India recently took cognisance of media reports on recounting at Nandigram assembly constituency in West Bengal, to clarify that the returning officer appointed by the poll panel is the final authority under the law to take decision on such matter.

What’s the issue?

The Nandigram assembly constituency saw a tough, nail-biting battle between incumbent West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and her former aide, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Suvendu Adhikary.

Ultimately, the election commission declared Adhikari had won by a margin of 1,956 votes. Mamata’s party Trinamool Congress immediately demanded a recount but was turned down by the EC.

Roles and powers of Returning Officer under the Representation of the People Act, 1951:

  • The returning officer of an assembly constituency performs statutory functions under the Representation of the People Act, 1951 in quasi-judicial capacity
  • Whether it is nomination, polling or counting, the RO acts strictly in accordance with the extant electoral laws, instructions and guidelines of the ECI.
  • When an application for recounting of votes is made the returning officer shall decide the matter and may allow the application in whole or in part or may reject it in its entirety if it appears to him to be frivolous or unreasonable.

What lies ahead?

In such a case, only legal remedy is to file an EP (election petition) before the high court.

  • As per provisions of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, the decision of a returning officer can only be challenged through an election petition under section 80 of the Act.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. Key Provisions of RPA.
  2. Roles and powers of Returning Officer.
  3. Appeals against EC’s orders.

Sources: the Hindu.