The Election Commission of India (ECI) on Tuesday took cognisance of media reports on recounting at the Nandigram assembly constituency in West Bengal and said that the Returning Officer (RO) appointed by the poll panel is the final authority under the law to decide on such matter.
"Certain sections of media have reported about the matter of recounting in Nandigram AC. Returning Officer (RO) of an Assembly Constituency performs statutory functions under the RP 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 statement read.
Regarding the controversy at Nandigram, the ECI said after the counting on May 2 "the election agent of a particular candidate requested for recount, which was rejected by the RO, through a speaking order, on the basis of material facts available before him and declared the result. In such a case, only legal remedy is to file an EP before the High Court".
This comes after Mamata Banerjee's lost to her former aide Suvendu Adhikari by 1,736 votes in Nandigram. The Trinamool Congress (TMC), however, did not accept the verdict as only a few minutes earlier Mamata Banerjee was reportedly declared victorious. A three-member TMC delegation rushed to the Returning Officer in Nandigram and sought a recount of the ballot papers. However, the request was turned down. The party also wrote to the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), West Bengal seeking "immediate recounting of votes and postal ballots".
"Certain preposterous and illegal incidents have happened today while the counting of votes was taking place in Nandigram AC 210. The candidate Mamata Banerjee had sought for recounting of votes before the Returning Officer, Nandigram AC, but such recounting has been refused for reasons unknown. Such refusal is bad in law and coloured. We demand an immediate recounting of Nandigram AC 210 to preserve the sanctity of the electoral process," the TMC had said in a letter to the CEO.
On Monday, Mamata Banerjee alleged that the RO had said that he was threatened against recounting of votes. Mamata said, "I received an SMS from someone wherein Returning Officer of Nandigram has written to someone if he allows recounting then his life would be under threat. For four hours the server was down. Governor also congratulated me. Suddenly everything changed. I will move court."
Meanwhile, the ECI on Tuesday directed the West Bengal government to take all appropriate measures to keep a strict watch and monitor on a regular basis the security provided to the RO of Nandigram. "West Bengal Govt shall take all appropriate measures to keep a strict watch and monitor the security protection, provided to Returning Officer, 210 Nandigram AC, on regular basis. He should also be extended appropriate medical support/counseling," informed the ECI.
(With input from agencies)