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Confusion over ballot marking: Telangana HC orders counting of ballots with ‘Swastik’ mark only in GHMC elections

Justice Reddy reiterated that if the markings other than the 'Swastik" make a difference in the result, such results will not be declared and shall be subject to further process.

Ahead of the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation elections results, the Telangana High Court on Friday asked the State Election Commission (SEC) to only consider votes with “Swastik” mark on the ballot papers used in the elections that were held on 1 December.

According to Swarajya report, Justice A Abhishek Reddy of Telangana High Court gave directions to the State Election Commission asking them to inform all the counting centres to consider only votes with “Swastik” mark.

Recently, a controversy had erupted after the SEC issued a notification stating that ballot papers with any clear marks on them can be counted during the process of counting votes. The SEC issued the notification after presiding officers in some of the polling stations issued “distinguished mark” in place of “Swastik” for marking the ballot papers.

The notification clarified that a vote should be considered valid if the voter has marked clearly for a particular candidate, who should not lose out because of a polling staff error.

However, Justice Reddy reiterated that if the markings other than the ‘Swastik” make a difference in the result, such results will not be declared and shall be subject to further process.

The Swastik stamp, with curved outer arms, is the official stamp used in elections in India using paper ballots. The arms also have arrowheads on its tips. The stamp with the arrows in the clockwise direction helps to distinguish the original mark from its impression which may appear on other parts of the ballot paper, if the paper is folded when the mark is still wet.

BJP candidates had moved the petition, sought cancellation of SEC notification on ballot markings

The High Court order came after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidates – Puranapul K Surender and Anthony Reddy had moved a separate plea in the Telangana HC late last night, questioning the SEC clarification.

The court heard the petition that challenged the EC orders to consider votes with any mark on the ballot paper. Hearing the petition, the Telangana High Court suspended circular issued by the State Election Commission, which was issued on Thursday midnight.

The judge posted the matter for further hearing by the High Court on 7 December. The High Court has also asked the Telangana State Election Commission to file an affidavit regarding the circular issued by them with complete details.

BJP leading in GHMC elections

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has taken an early lead in the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation elections, leading in 88 of the total 150 seats. According to the latest trends, the ruling TRS is leading in 34 seats. While Owaisi-led AIMIM has gained leads in 17 seats mostly in Muslim dominated seats, the Congress party has managed to lead in just one seat.

The results for the GHMC elections are set to be declared on Friday. The GHMC polls were conducted on December 1 amid much fanfare and loud campaigns by all parties.

The GHMC election was a battle for dominance and political prestige for the TRS, BJP and AIMIM. The BJP, which recently won the by-poll at Dubbaka assembly constituency, is trying to consolidate its position in the southern state.

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