As most allegations of election petitions (EPs) filed in the Telangana High Court pertain to EVM errors or seeking voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) count, EVMs in 34 constituencies cannot be opened for preparing them for Lok Sabha polls. Consequently, the state election authorities would need new EVMs for upcoming polls.
The issue of EPs gained significance with EC suspending Vikarabad collector Syed Omar Jaleel for cleaning up data in a few EVMs of Vikarabad Assembly constituency despite an EP pending in court.
An EP challenges the validity of an election result of a candidate in a parliamentary, assembly or local election. The last date for filing EPs in the Telangana High Court was January 25.
An MLA’s election could be declared void under Section 100 of the Representation of People Act, 1951, if the High Court, after trial, is of the view that there was enough evidence to prove the allegations of electoral malpractices and violations.
“In constituencies where no election petitions were filed, EVMs can be opened. First-level checking will be done in the presence of representatives of political parties. Around 34 EPs were filed. What happened in Vikarabad is a serious lapse and ECI suspended the collector,” Telangana chief electoral officer (CEO) Rajat Kumar told TOI.
‘One-third of EVMs may be locked up’
Most EPs sought counting of VVPATs and raised questions on EVMs. If all the 34 EPs are accepted, then around onethird of voting machines will be locked up in court. We will have to request EC to send new machines,” he said.
Advocate C Damodar Reddy told TOI, “A voter from Gajwel constituency filed a petition against CM KCR. The plea is yet to be numbered. The petitioner alleged that KCR had filed false affidavits in Gajwel constituency and questioned his agricultural income. The petitioner claimed in the first affidavit only four pending criminal cases were mentioned, while in the second 64 criminal cases are mentioned. Regarding agriculture income shown by CM, several questions were raised.”
Several Congress leaders, who tasted defeat in the recent elections, including A Revanth Reddy, DK Aruna, Padmavati Reddy, Malreddy Ranga Reddy and Addanki Dayakar, have filed EPs alleging irregularities.
Congress leader Gudur Narayana Reddy told TOI, “We are not finding fault with district-level officers. The state-level officers are responsible for this fiasco. Only EC teams have access to EVMs. There is a huge difference between votes polled and counted on EVMs. VVPATs should be counted in all 119 constituencies.”
TRS MP B Vinod Kumar said, “Election petitions are normal. Even in all 119 assembly constituencies, election petitions can be filed. Every contestant has a right to file such petitions. Nothing serious about an election petition against the chief minister. However, the allegations in these petitions are frivolous in nature. Voters have given a clear mandate in the people’s court. And, elected TRS MLAs will fight, legally, in the courts to come out clean.”