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Advocate Mehmood Pracha, who contested as an independent candidate, said that the record of votes polled must mandatorily be provided to him on request.

Advocate Mehmood Pracha, who contested the Lok Sabha elections as an independent candidate from Uttar Pradesh’s Rampur seat, has moved the Supreme Court claiming that the returning officer had not provided him with copies of Form 17C, the record of votes polled in the constituency, Live Law reported.

Pracha filed an intervention application in a petition by the non-governmental organisation Association for Democratic Reforms, which seeks directions to the Election Commission for the immediate release of absolute voter turnout numbers. There was a delay in publishing this data after the first two phases of polling.

Pracha claimed that he wrote to the returning officer on April 30 seeking machine-wise data of total votes cast in the polling, as recorded in Form 17C by presiding officers at polling booths. Polling was held in Rampur on April 19.

On May 9, the returning officer responded to Pracha claiming that copies of Form 17C for Rampur’s polling booth could not be furnished as the forms had been sealed.

Pracha wrote back, saying that Form 17C is to be kept unsealed in the possession of the returning officer and that the officer is bound to supply copies of the form if sought by the candidates. He cited Rule 93 of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, and pointed out that Form 17C is not included in the documents that are to be kept sealed.

Pracha also said that the Handbook for Returning Officer, 2023, a set of guidelines issued by the Election Commission, mandates that copies of Form 17C are to be kept readily available with the returning officer of a constituency after polling concludes.

As part of the Association for Democratic Reforms’ plea, the Supreme Court on May 17 had asked the Election Commission to explain its inability to release absolute voter turnout figures immediately after each phase of the ongoing Lok Sabha elections. The court directed the Election Commission to respond to the petition within a week.

On April 30, the Election Commission published the final voter turnout percentage for the first two phases of the general election. While the first phase recorded a turnout of 66.14%, the second phase recorded a figure of 66.71%. However, the panel did not release the absolute number of voters in each constituency.

The final figures, for both phases, were substantially higher than the Election Commission’s initial estimates. The data was released more than 10 days after the first phase and four days after the second phase of polling.

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