Directs appellate authority to hear both the parties — Khalida Bibi and Sajida Begum
Srinagar: The High Court of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh on Thursday quashed the orders of Additional Commissioner Kashmir (ADC) and District Panchayat Officer Anantnag for ordering recounting of votes for the seat of Larnoo Constituency in District Development Council (DDC) polls, after recording that the authority has failed to decide the case on merit.
The court directed that the Appellate Authority shall reconsider the appeal afresh and revisit the issues raised therein and decide the matter in accordance with law and rules, providing a reasonable opportunity of hearing to the parties.
The DDC polls in Anantnag were held on 28 November, 2020, and accordingly on 28 December, Khalida Bibi, a candidate of People’s Democratic Party (PDP), was declared successful. An appeal was filed before the Additional Commissioner Kashmir (ADC)-l, the appellate authority, by an independent candidate Sajida Begum challenging the election result and seeking recounting of votes.
The ADC and District Panchayat Officer on 2 February and 3 February passed and notified orders for recounting of votes.
Upon recounting on 5 February, the Independent candidate, Sajida Begum, was declared the winner by 61 votes against Khalida Bibi.
The matter was then challenged before court, which ordered that both the candidates were restrained from holding the office.
Today when the matter was heard, the court refrained from deciding the matter and directed the appellate authority to provide reasonable opportunity for hearing both the parties.
“This Court refrains from undertaking any exercise in deciding the said question/issues in the instant petition, lest it may prejudice the right of the parties and instead deems it appropriate to remand the case back to the Appellate Authority for reconsideration of the appeal after affording a reasonable opportunity of hearing to the parties,” the court recorded.
The court on testing the validity of the order passed by the Appellate Authority said that it emerges from the record that the Appellate Authority while adjudicating upon the appeal has fundamentally relied upon the report of the District Election Officer (Deputy Commissioner,
Anantnag), wherein it has been noticed that in the final hourly report the total votes have been reflected as 14208 and whereas in the result sheet issued by the returning officer the total votes counted had been shown as 12993, leaving a difference of 1215 votes including 752 invalid votes.
“The Appellate Authority despite having noticed the said difference in the number of votes has not undertaken any exercise in tracing out the reasons thereof and has straight way without conducting any kind of enquiry and without deriving any satisfaction thereto directed recounting of the votes which is against the natural justice,” the court said.