Telangana HC directs officials to break open strong rooms

The district collector informed the court that the keys for 2 of the 3 strong rooms had been misplaced.

Hyderabad: Telangana High Court on Thursday directed the Jagtial collector and district election officer to break open the 2 out of 3 strong room at VRK college of Engineering, in connection with the Dharmapuri assembly case.

The court was hearing a petition filed in 2019 for recounting of votes filed by Congress candidate Aduluri Laxman Kumar, who lost the legislative assembly elections to his Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) counterpart Koppula Eshwar.

Kumar alleged irregularities in the counting and recounting of the Voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) slips of Electronic Voting Machine (EVM)at certain places of the Constituency.

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The district collector informed the court that the keys for 2 of the 3 strong rooms had been misplaced and an enquiry in underway, the HC directed the Election Commission of India (ECI) enquire into the matter further.

ECI on Wednesday informed the court that a report would be presented before the court by April 26 and the presiding judge Justice K Lakshman, directed the district officials to break open the strong rooms in reference to the the proceedings of the ECI from April 17.

The strong rooms have to open by a locksmith with help from a carpenter in the presence of all political parties and the election documents are to be handed over to the returning officer, who will submit the documents to the HC.

Justice Lakshman has also directed the collector to provide vehicle and protection to the returning officer in order to submit the documents to court.

Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) candidate Koppula Eswar was declared elected by 441 votes. He is now a minister in the state Cabinet. Eswar and Laxman secured 70,579 votes and 70,138, respectively.

Alleging that there were irregularities in the counting of votes, Laxman had filed a petition for setting aside Eswar’s election.

Last year, the Supreme Court dismissed Edward’s petition seeking a stay on the proceedings in the High Court. During the hearing of the case in the High Court, Laxman’s counsel had pointed out discrepancies.

According to him, the returning officer in his report to the chief electoral officer said that the number of votes in all 269 polling stations was 1,65,209 which accounts for 79.96 per cent of polling.

However, he claimed that as per the information furnished by authorities to them under the RTI Act, 1,65,341 votes were polled and the polling percentage was 80.02.

Laxman remains hopeful that after examining the relevant documents pertaining to the polling percentage, the high court will order recounting.

Four years after the election, one strong room was reopened April 10, on the orders of the HC. The officials opened the strongv room in the presence of Jagtial district collector Shaik Yasmeen Basha. The Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) were kept under tight security at VRK College.

(With inputs from IANS)

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