Explained: When can a Rajya Sabha vote be rejected?

The Indian Express | 3 weeks ago | 10-06-2022 | 11:50 am

Explained: When can a Rajya Sabha vote be rejected?

Elections for 57 Rajya Sabha seats across 15 states are being held on Friday. With as many as 41 candidates having already been declared elected unopposed, the contest is on for 16 seats in four states — Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Haryana and Karnataka.Members of the Rajya Sabha are elected through single transferable votes via an open ballot. Members of a state’s Legislative Assembly vote in the Rajya Sabha elections in what is called proportional representation with the single transferable vote (STV) system. Each MLA’s vote is counted only once.There have been multiple instances in the past where the votes of MPs and MLAs have been rejected due to violation of rules.In 2017, with the high-stakes Rajya Sabha election in Gujarat touching a nerve-racking finishing, the counting was delayed in three seats after the Congress asked the Election Commission (EC) to reject the votes of two of its rebels, who allegedly showed their ballot papers to unauthorised persons in the polling booth in Gandhinagar.Later, in a boost to the Congress party and its candidate Ahmed Patel, the EC disqualified two votes by Congress MLAs that were in favour of the BJP. The commission’s order was made after the Congress petitioned it saying the two MLAs showed their votes to a BJP agent and therefore, stood invalid. The two MLAs were Bhola Bhai Gohil and Raghav Bhai Patel.The commission had invoked its constitutional powers to overrule the returning officer, who had declared the votes valid, and by doing so maintained the panel’s neutrality.The commission turned to Article 324 of the Constitution, which gives the panel unprecedented powers to hold free-and-fair polls in situations not covered by the Representation of People’s Act, the law governing the election process in India.Open ballot voting applies in elections to Council of States only. Every political party which has MLAs can appoint an authorised agent to verify whom its members have voted for.In 2016, Randeep Surjewala’s vote was rejected after he showed it to another MLA instead of his party’s authorised agent. Surjewala was an MLA in the 2016 Rajya Sabha elections in Haryana.No. The spirit behind Rule 39AA of the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961 is that MLAs belonging to a political party shall show their ballot papers (after marking their vote) to the authorised agent of that party only and not to the authorised agent of other parties. As such, the same person cannot be appointed as the authorised agent of more than one party.Can an MLA or minister be appointed as an authorized agent?There is no such restriction imposed by the EC in elections to the Council of States and State Legislative Council by MLAs.Can an Independent MLA show his marked ballot paper to the authorised agent of any party?No, Independent MLAs are required to insert the marked ballot paper in the ballot box without showing the marked ballot to any agent.What action is taken by the Presiding Officer/Returning Officer in case an elector belonging to a political party refuses to show his/her marked ballot paper to the authorised agent?In such a case, the ballot paper issued to the elector will be taken back by the Presiding Officer, or a polling officer under the direction of the Presiding Officer, and the ballot paper will be kept in a separate envelope after recording on the reverse side of the ballot paper “Cancelled-voting procedure violates”. A provision in sub-rules (6) to (8) of rule 39A of the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961, shall apply in such cases.According to the EC, if the elector drops the ballot paper in the box without showing it to the authorised agent, then at the time of counting, the RO should first separate this concerned ballot paper and it shall not be counted.Yes, in the ballot paper, a MLA has to mark his or her choice of candidates by ranking them and they also have to use a special pen provided by the EC. If they use any other pen, or if their ballot papers remain incomplete, the vote would be regarded as invalid.In 2016, the EC directed the Haryana Police to register an FIR on the complaint of senior lawyer R K Anand against the Returning Officer for allowing the use of an unauthorised pen for voting in the Rajya Sabha election. The Congress party had alleged this was a deliberate fraud to make the party’s votes invalid.

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