Ker HC | Printing names of contesting candidates in different colours on ballot paper – anathema to scheme of election process

Kerala High Court: The Divison Bench of V. Chitambaresh and R. Narayana Pisharadi, JJ. allowed a writ appeal against an order allowing printing of names of candidates contesting co-operative society elections, on ballot paper in different colour shades.

The instant appeal was filed against the order of learned Single Judge whereby respondent’s request to print the names of the contesting candidates on the ballot paper in different colour shades, was allowed holding that it would help illiterate voters to make a correct choice.  In doing so, the learned judge declared Rule 35A(6)(n)(viii) of the Kerala Co-operative Societies Rules, 1969 as ‘undemocratic and unconstitutional’.

The question of law for consideration in the present appeal was: whether names of contesting candidates can be printed in different colours on ballot paper indicating the political party to which they belong.

The Court noted that except the essentials contemplated under Rule 35A(6)(n)(viii), no further ornamentation of ballot paper, by incorporation of a symbol or colour for the contesting candidate, was contemplated under the Kerala Co-operative Societies Act, 1969  or Rules; and was thus impermissible in law. It was opined that the word ‘uniform’ incorporated in Rule 35A(6)(n)(viii) mandates that all ballot papers shall be similar with regard to the projection of names. Uniformity is required not only with respect to ballot papers supplied to the members desirous of voting, but also with respect to names of contesting candidates.

It was opined that the word ‘uniform’ means ‘characterised by lack of variation’. It was inserted in Rule 35A(6) (n)(viii) with the sole object of treating all candidates alike in the ballot paper. Giving different colour shades to contesting candidates is an anathema to the scheme of election process, particularly because there is no authority either under the Act or Rules to allot a particular colour to a candidate depending on the political party to whom he owes allegiance.

In view of the above, and observing that the possibility of an illiterate voter indicating his choice for a wrong candidate due to absence of colour shade in projecting his name in the ballot paper was quite illusory, the impugned Judgment was set aside.[State of Kerala v. Akathethara Service Co-operative Bank Ltd., 2019 SCC OnLine Ker 706, Order dated 20-02-2019]

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