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FPJ Legal: Election officer can change polling booth site to maintain impartiality, Bombay HC observes

Narsi Benwal | Updated on: Tuesday, January 18, 2022, 08:40 AM IST

Bombay High Court | PTI
Bombay High Court | PTI
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Mumbai: Observing that the election officer has the power to change a polling booth, the Bombay High Court recently said that it has to be done to ensure that impartial elections take place. The HC has upheld the change of polling booth for Gram Panchayat elections of a village in Nagpur.

A bench of Justices Sunil Shukre and Anil Pansare was hearing a plea filed by Durgabai Tirale, challenging the decision of an election officer, shifting a polling booth from one site to the other, which was 15 kilometres away. As per Tirale's plea, the election officer suddenly changed the booth after convening a meeting with the representatives of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the local police. The election officer justified his decision by highlighting the inputs from security agencies that suggested the change in the booth site.

Tirale argued that her right as a voter is affected by the sudden change as no voter in her area consented to the change of site. "We must say that we find that there is in existence, in this case, an objective material based on which, the Election Officer has exercised her discretion by reaching her subjective satisfaction regarding change of booth and shifting its site," the bench said.

"The use of this discretion by the election officer is an instance of the exercise of her administrative power conferred upon her for maintaining integrity and impartiality of the election process and that being so, the exercise of such discretion, is beyond the pale of judicial review of this court, unless, it is demonstrated or it is shown by the voters that such exercise is arbitrary, actuated by any malice or is based upon any extraneous consideration or is perverse in the sense that the discretion has been exercised without there being in existence any objective material for reaching subjective satisfaction," the bench said.

The bench accordingly upheld the decision to change the booth

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Published on: Tuesday, January 18, 2022, 08:40 AM IST