Returning Officer will take the final call for recounting of votes, EC says on Nandigram Poll

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The Election Commission of India on Tuesday has taken the call after reviewing the media reports pertaining to recounting of votes at Nandigram Assembly constituency in West Bengal and further gave the clarification that the returning officer deployed by the poll panel is the final authority according to the law to take the final decision adhering to the subject.
In a statement, the poll said, “Whether it is nomination, polling or counting, the RO acts strictly in accordance with the extant electoral laws, instructions and guidelines of the ECI.”
The Nandigram Assembly Constituency witnessed a tough gut wrenching fight between incumbent West Bengal Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee and Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) aide Suvendu Adhikari.

Post the counting of votes on Sunday, the EC announced that Suvendu Adhikari had won over with a margin of 1,956 votes. Then, TMC appealed for recounting of votes, however, was turned down by EC. However, Banerjee stated that she will move to the court and challenge the decision of EC, saying, “I cannot reveal who forwarded this but the returning officer, who wrote it, clearly says that his life was under threat. In the message, he said he was held at gunpoint and forced not to order a re-counting which we demanded.”
The Election Commission said, “The returning officer of an assembly constituency performs statutory functions under the Representation of the People Act, 1951 in quasi-judicial capacity independently. Whether it is nomination, polling or counting, the RO acts strictly in accordance with the extant electoral laws, instructions and guidelines of the ECI.”
The poll panel further stated that when an application for recounting of votes is filed, the final call is taken by the returning officer and the application may in parts or the complete essence may be rejected if it appears such to him.
The poll commission further said, “After the counting in Nandigram AC, the election agent of a particular candidate requested for recount, which was rejected by the RO (returning officer), through a speaking order, on the basis of material facts available before him in accordance with the provisions of Rule 63, as above, and declared the result. In such a case, only legal remedy is to file an EP (election petition) before the high court.”
According to the provisions of the Representations of the People Act, 1951, the final decision presented by the returning officer can be further challenged by election petition following Section 80 of the Act.
The Election Commission stated, “Each counting table (in Nandigram) had one micro-observer. Their reports never indicated any impurity of counting process on their respective table. The RO caused the entries of votes polled by each candidate after each round to be written on the display board which could be easily seen by the counting agents. No doubt was raised on the result of round-wise counting. This enabled the RO to proceed uninterruptedly with the counting of votes.”

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