The Supreme Court today dismissed a Special Leave Petition filed by a 78-year-old, bedridden lady seeking to cast her vote through the postal ballot in the ongoing Lok Sabha Elections from Bilaspur, Chattisgarh.

The Bench of Justice Bela M Trivedi and Justice Pankaj Mithal heard the matter and dismissed the petition.

Justice Trivedi said, "You have to follow the procedure."

Justice Mithal said, "Even for postal ballot the time is fixed, the procedure has to be followed. Not that it has to be received by such and such date...but that does not give you a right to cast vote."

The Counsel submitted that though a direction was issued by the Chattisgarh High Court in a writ petition to the Returning Officer to consider the application moved by the Petitioner under Form 12-D of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 for issuance of postal ballot considering the physical condition of the Petitioner, the same was rejected by the authority on May 1, 2024.

The Counsel said, "I went to the High Court that I am being denied postal ballot despite the fact that I am bedridden and 78 years old. There is a substantive order in my own writ petition passed on April 29, 2024...the order was accepted by the Election Commission."

The Counsel further submitted that the authorities rejected the request by saying that the Petitioner does not have a physical disability of 40% or above criteria and therefore, a postal ballot could not be allowed to her.

Justice Trivedi said, "The High Court had directed them to consider your application and if they are satisfied that you have a physical disability and you are unable to go to the polling station, they considered your application and found that you do not have a physical disability to cast vote, therefore, they rejected your application. They considered your medical certificate."

Justice Mithal asked, "If you are below 80 years then why should you be permitted?"

Justice Trivedi remarked, "Possibly you have not submitted the prescribed form. Then you have not produced a benchmark disability certificate. High Court directed authorities to decide, they did. Everybody would like to sit at home and then cast vote."

The Counsel then referred to the order of the High Court, which said, "There are two categories, one, a person with physical disability and persons who are hospitalized or suffering from or affected by COVID-19. These two classes also include persons who are bedridden or who are unable to walk. If any application has been moved by such person, it is the duty of the Returning Officer to inquire into the matter and send the team to visit such place or house. Clause 16 of the notification dated 31/10/2023 deals with the process of delivering and collecting postal ballots from ‘Absentee Voters’. Clause 16.1.1 deals with material required for team visits. Clause 16.1.2 talks about home visits of poll teams. Taking into consideration the above-stated provisions of law, if any application has been moved by an elector before the Returning Officer, the concerned officer is under obligation to inquire into the matter and after recording its satisfaction, if it is found that the person concerned is unable to cast his or her vote on polling booth, the postal ballot may be issued. In the present case, the petitioner has not moved any application according to Form 12 or Form 12 D of the Rules, 1961 and a simple application was moved for the issuance of a postal ballot. It appears that the appropriate application was not moved before the Returning Officer therefore, no action has been taken yet by such authority."

"Admittedly, the petitioner is a citizen of India; her name is present in the electoral roll; she has the right to cast her vote as she is not disqualified otherwise; and, more particularly, she is unable to walk and a medical certificate has been issued by a medical practitioner in her favour in this regard, therefore, the petitioner is permitted to make an application as per Form 12 or Form 12D of the Rules, 1961 before the concerned Returning Officer and such authority is directed to consider the claim of the petitioner strictly in accordance with the law and if it is found that she is entitled to cast her vote through postal ballot, the postal ballot shall be issued in her favour according to the Rules of 1961 and the notification issued in this regard from time to time by the Election Commission of India.", the said order observed.

Accordingly, the Court dismissed the petition.

Cause Title: Sarla Srivastava v. Election Commission of India and Ors. (Diary No. 23548/2024)