The first general elections were conducted in 1952. Mr. PN Sehgal, then a lecturer at National Defence Academy was excited enough to suggest a few steps that could be taken in the next election. One of the steps was postal ballots for blind, incapacitated and people on essential duties. 67 years later, Mr. Sehgal’s suggestion of postal ballot was accepted and made into law. Let’s now examine, what a postal ballot really is. 

 

A postal ballot for an election to the Lok Sabha is a white coloured paper, which has a counterfoil. It does not have the symbol of the political party printed on it. There are two columns, showing the names of the candidates and their political parties. The Postal Ballot is printed in English and the official language of the State where it is going to be used. 

 

The District Election Officer is responsible for printing postal ballots. They are printed in two batches and stitched in a bundle of 50 postal ballots. They are despatched through posts, through coordination with the postal department to avoid any delays. A packet sent contains the following- 

 

(a) Form of Declaration in Form - 13-A.

(b) A cover in Form 13-B (containing postal ballot paper)

(c) A cover addressed to the RO in Form 13-C (without  postage stamp)

(d) Instructions for the guidance of the elector in Form 13-D.

 

By default, all police persons, be it a constable or the DGP, except those who are on leave, are considered to be on election duty. Hence, they are eligible to vote through Postal Ballots. Apart from them, drivers, conductors and cleaners of vehicles being used by the Election Commission are also eligible to vote through postal ballots. 

 

When the postal ballots are being received by the Returning Officer, a daily report is given to the Election Observers. On counting day, the postal ballots are counted first. This counting is in the presence of counting agents. In case the postal ballot is not filled up properly, it is rejected. 

 

The postal ballots accepted and rejected are kept in two different bundles. Once the votes from the EVM are counted, the final result is announced. 

 

The acceptability of postal ballots has been contested many times for the Courts. In S. Raghbir Singh Gill v. S. Gurcharan Singh Tohra, 1980 Supp SCC 53, the Supreme Court had observed, “When it is alleged that postal ballot papers were tampered with, the implication in law is that those postal ballot papers have been wrongly received in favour of a candidate not entitled to the same and improperly refused in favour of the candidate entitled to the same, and this is a miscount and a re-count is necessary. In the very nature of things the allegation can be not on each specific instance of an error of counting or miscount but broad allegations indicating error in counting or miscount necessitating a re-count.”.

 

In Vadivelu v. Sundaram, (2000) 8 SCC 355, the Apex Court has summarized the jurisprudence by holding, “e-count of votes could be ordered very rarely and on specific allegation in the pleadings in the election petition that illegality or irregularity was committed while counting. The petitioner who seeks re-count should allege and prove that there was improper acceptance of invalid votes or improper rejection of valid votes. If only the court is satisfied about the truthfulness of the above allegation, it can order re-count of votes. Secrecy of ballot has always been considered sacrosanct in a democratic process of election and it cannot be disturbed lightly by bare allegations of illegality or irregularity in counting. But if it is proved that purity of elections has been tarnished and it has materially affected the result of the election whereby the defeated candidate is seriously prejudiced, the court can resort to re-count of votes under such circumstances to do justice between the parties.”

 

The magic of postal ballots is all set to flourish the upcoming Delhi Assembly Elections. It is hoped that the Election Commission will publicize the postal ballots, and a number of elderly people, who otherwise were unable to vote, will have a say in electing the government. Democracy must be inclusive. Postal ballots make it more. 

   

   

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