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Lok Sabha candidate moves Supreme Court, says Returning Officer denied him Form 17 records of votes

Independent candidate contesting Lok Sabha elections from Rampur (Uttar Pradesh) constituency, Advocate Mehmood Pracha has filed an intervention application in the Supreme Court claiming that the Returning Officer has not furnished to him the copies of the Form 17C record of votes polled in the constituency.

The independent candidate has sought to intervene in the application filed by the Association for Democratic Reforms(ADR) seeking directions to the Election Commission of India to immediately publish voter turnout data after the polling.

In the intervention application, Advocate Mehmood Pracha stated that after the conclusion of voting in Rampur on April 30, he had written to the Returning Officer for supply of the machine-wise data of total votes cast in the election, as recorded in Form 17-C by the Presiding Officers of the Voting Stations. The Returning Officer on May 9 replied to him stating that the Form 17C copies were given to the polling agents who were present at the Polling Stations and they cannot be given now as they are sealed.

The applicant replied to the Returning Officer submitting that copies of such Forms 17-C are necessary to be kept unsealed in the possession of the Returning Officer after the polling and it was also mandatory and incumbent upon the Returning Officer to supply copies of such documents upon an application being made. He further relied on Rule 93 of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 to highlight that Form 17C is not mentioned in the documents which are to be kept in sealed condition.

He also submitted that Clauses 13.48.2 and 13.55.3, of the Handbook for Returning Officer 2023, mandate that copies of Form 17-C are bound to be readily available with the Returning Officer of a Constituency after the conclusion of polling. With these aforesaid submissions, Advocate Pracha has sought to be heard in the matter. 

Earlier on May 17, a bench led by the Chief Justice DY Chandrachud asked the Election Commission of India to file its response to the ADR’s application. During the proceedings, the bench verbally asked the ECI what was its difficulty in uploading copies of Form 17C on their website. The matter is scheduled for further hearing on May 24 by a vacation bench.

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