Thin victory margin no ground for recounting votes: apex court

New Delhi, Nov 30 ( A runner-up cannot claim a recount of votes just because the election was won by a razor thin margin, the Supreme Court has ruled.

Unless the plea for recounting was supported by solid evidence of irregularities in counting, the lower courts or the election tribunal need not order a recount merely on ground of low victory margins, said a bench of Justices D.K. Jain and R.M. Lodha while delivering its verdict on a petition filed by a village headman in Andhra Pradesh.

The ruling was delivered Nov 23, but released late Saturday.

“A narrow margin of votes between the returned candidate and the election petitioner (the runner-up candidate) does not per se give rise to a presumption that there had been an irregularity or illegality in the counting of votes, entitling the runner-up candidate to claim recounting of votes,” said the bench.

Discounting the Andhra Pradesh High Court’s reasoning that “recounting of votes will reinforce the transparency in the process of election, particularly when the margin of votes was very narrow”, the apex court bench said: “It needs to be emphasised that recounting may even breach the secrecy of ballot”.

The apex court gave its ruling on a lawsuit by K. Murali Krishna, who had been elected as sarpanch in Ravimetla village in Andhra Pradesh’s West Godavari district in August 2006 by two votes.

Alleging that the low margin was an indication that there had been irregularity in the counting process, runner-up candidate V. Koteswara Rao had moved the lower civil court and had secured its order for a recount.

As the lower court ruled in favour of Rao and ordered recounting of votes saying it would not cause any prejudice against the winner, Krishna moved the state high court challenging the lower court order.

As the high court too ruled in Rao’s favour, Krishna moved the apex court, which upheld his contention and set aside the lower court’s order that had been endorsed by the high court.