The Local Level Elections (Vote Counting) Directive-2022 has defined the circumstances under which a ballot counting centre will be considered captured.

As per section 33 of the directive, capture of ballot counting centre will be referred to such circumstances wherein any person or group influences the ballot counting process by resorting to undue force, issuing threat or intimidating the officials concerned. Similarly, if a person or group inhibits the election officer or employees from fulfilling their duties and responsibilities or snatches ballot papers, ballot box and other materials in a bid to disrupt the vote counting process in a free and impartial manner, it will be deemed a capture of ballot counting centre.

"In the event of occurrence of any such incident, the election officer will suspend the ballot counting process immediately and provide information thereof to the chief election officer and the Election Commission," the directive says.

Upon receipt of that information, the EC will depute an election commissioner or a monitoring team to the ballot counting centre for on-site investigation or inquiry. "If the investigation report proves the capture of ballot counting centre, the EC may declare all the ballot papers of the concerned polling centre illegal and cancel the voting of such centre," it reads.

Subsequently, the election officer will have to issue a notice specifying the venue, date and time for re-voting in the polling centre where the ballot papers have been declared illegal.

The directive has also stipulated the provisions for demanding re-counting of vote.

Any candidate or his/her representative dissatisfied with the vote counting may submit an application along with valid reasons to the election officer for re-counting of vote before completion of vote counting or sealing of ballot papers. If re-counting of vote is deemed necessary during an inquiry into the application, the election officer may proceed with the recounting accordingly.

The election officer may seek the help of any government or security agency in the course of vote counting. Likewise, the directive requires the election officer to maintain the confidentiality of valid and invalid ballots as well as counterfoils of ballot papers by sealing them so that no one can open and see them.

A version of this article appears in the print on April 14, 2022, of The Himalayan Times