SC denies stay order in ballot paper row

Published On: October 19, 2017 05:00 AM NPT By: Kosh Raj Koirala  | @KoshRKoirala

KATHMANDU, OCT 19: The Supreme Court (SC) has refused to issue a stay order against the writ petition that sought separate ballot papers for provincial and parliamentary polls, thereby paving the way for the Election Commission to hold both the polls on the stipulated dates of November 26 and December 7. 

A joint bench of Justices Deepak Raj Joshee and Purushottam Bhandari refrained from issuing the stay order, arguing that the election body could itself give due consideration to the issue in view of the fact that printing of ballot papers for part of the elections has already started.

Although the apex court verdict seems to reflect a feeling that there should be separate ballot papers for federal and provincial polls, the court decision is seen by many, including the EC, as a move to facilitate the polls taking place on the stipulated dates. 
In his reaction after the apex court's decision, Chief Election Commissioner Ayodhee Prasad Yadav said, “Please do not cast any doubts about holding of the polls within the stipulated dates.” He told media persons at his office Wednesday evening that the EC has finished making all necessary preparations for both polls.

The decision of the apex court comes in the wake of speculation in political circles that Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba was preparing to defer the polls, citing the apex court's likely order to arrange separate ballot papers for parliamentary and provincial polls. The CPN (Maoist Center) had even  changed its mind at the eleventh hours about quitting the cabinet  Tuesday, alleging that the government was conspiring to defer the polls.
Senior leader of  Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJPN) Sarbendra Nath Shukla had filed the writ petition on October 8, demanding separate ballot papers for provincial and parliamentlary polls so that  voters would not be confused. Advocates Surendra Kumar Mahato, Dr Chandra Kanta Gyawali and Pankaj Kumar Karna had pleaded on behalf of the petitioner, while Deputy Attorney General Shyam Kumar Bhattarai had pleaded on behalf of the defendant.
Although Justices  Joshee and Bhandari had conducted hearings on the writ petition on Tuesday, they put off their decision till Wednesday, citing the need to further study  the case.
The political parties, especially those under the CPN-UML-led leftist alliance, had apprehensions that the apex court may issue a stay order, directing the government to arrange separate ballots for provincial and parliamentary  polls. As per the suggestion of  top UML leaders, ministers representing the Maoist Center had decided not to resign from their ministerial positions even as they were rendered bereft of ministerial portfolios. 
Earlier, the EC had ruled out the possibility of holding the polls on the scheduled dates of November 26 and December 7 in case the apex court issued an order to print separate ballots. The EC would require to print 70 million ballot papers and arrange additional election material such as ballot boxes and poll screens in a short span of time--something that  the EC has ruled out categorically.
As part of conducting the parliamentary and provincial elections in two phases, the election body has already started printing the ballots papers A single ballot has been designed for both  parliamentary and assembly  polls. The EC would have to print four separate ballot papers had the apex court issued an order as demanded by the writ petitioner.

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