The Kerala High Court rejected a voter's claim of a valid self-cast vote in an election dispute, emphasizing that a voter's intention must be evident on the ballot paper itself. The case involved two candidates contesting for the position of Chairman for the Standing Committee for Education and Sports of the Cochin Corporation.
The voter, who was also a candidate, alleged that he voted for himself and argued that his vote should be considered valid. However, the court, led by Justice Bechu Kurian Thomas, scrutinized the ballot paper and found that the essential 'X' mark, as required by Rule 11 of the Kerala Municipality Standing Committee Rules, 2000, was not properly placed against his name. Consequently, the court rejected the vote, emphasizing that a voter's intention must be deduced from the ballot paper itself, irrespective of any subsequent affirmations.
Rule 11 mandates that a voter must mark an 'X' on the ballot paper against the candidate of their choice, and the court stressed the importance of adhering to this rule. In this particular case, the ballot paper displayed ambiguous markings against both the petitioner and the 6th respondent. The court observed that the symbol used by the 6th respondent did not resemble the alphabet 'X' and lacked clarity. Furthermore, Rule 11(7) explicitly states that the mark 'X' should be written as a single line over another single line, and the court highlighted that the nature of the mark on the ballot paper did not conform to this requirement.
The court referenced the precedent set in the case of Walter D. Paul v Ummer (1990), where a similar situation arose. In Walter, a tick mark was made instead of the required 'X' on the ballot paper, leading to the rejection of the vote. The Kerala High Court applied the same principle, asserting that when a rule specifies the use of 'X' for casting a vote, any other symbol would result in the vote being deemed invalid.
The dispute arose between the petitioner and the 6th respondent, both councillors of the Cochin Corporation, during the election for the Chairman position. The petitioner contended that the 6th respondent, despite being a candidate, did not cast a valid vote as per Rule 11. The returning officer had initially dismissed these allegations, and the 6th respondent won the election with four out of seven votes.
The petitioner filed a writ petition after obtaining copies of the ballot papers under the Right to Information Act, arguing that the 6th respondent did not follow the prescribed procedure in Rule 11. The court ultimately allowed the writ petition, rejected the 6th respondent's vote, and set aside his election as Chairman of the Standing Committee for Education and Sports of the Cochin Corporation.
TAGS: Kerala High Court election dispute self-cast vote voter's intention Rule 11 ballot paper 'X' mark ambiguity