Section 49P popularised by Vijay's 'Sarkar': What it's about

Movie-goers began to Google Section 49P of the election rules in India after a scene in 'Sarkar' showed Vijay’s character Sundar Ramasamy using the law to cast his vote.
Section 49P popularised by Vijay's 'Sarkar': What it's about
Section 49P popularised by Vijay's 'Sarkar': What it's about

Google searches for a little-known election rule peaked in India after AR Murugadoss’s Deepavali release, Sarkar. Movie-goers began to Google Section 49P of the election rules in India after a scene in Sarkar showed Vijay’s character Sundar Ramasamy using the law to cast his vote. Sundar, who is an NRI and CEO of a top American company, comes to his home country to cast his vote for the state elections only to find out that someone else has cast his vote under his name.

Sundar moves court under Section 49P of the election rules, which then sets the premise for the movie as Sundar ends up locking horns with three-time Chief Minister Masilamani (Pala Karuppiah), his second in command Malarvannan (Radha Ravi), and Masilamani's daughter Komalavalli (Varalaxmi Sarathkumar).

Here’s what the law Section 49P is all about:

According to The Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961, Section 49P states – “If a person representing himself to be a particular elector seeks to vote after another person has already voted as such elector, he shall, on satisfactorily answering such questions relating to his identity as the presiding officer may ask, be, instead of being allowed to vote through the balloting unit, supplied with a tendered ballot paper which shall be of such design, and the particulars of which shall be in such language or languages as the Election Commission may specify.”

In simpler terms, if a voter realises that someone else has already voted using his/her name, he/she can approach the presiding officer at the booth and flag the issue. Under 49P, the voter will be allowed to register his/her own vote as per their constitutional right. After satisfactorily answering questions ascertaining his identity to the presiding officer, the said voter is allowed to cast his/her vote on a ‘tendered’ ballot paper, which is then locked and sealed away. Such votes are called ‘tender votes’ and are usually useful when the margin of votes between two candidates is thin and the margin of victory is less than the tendered votes. However, if a candidate secures victory by a large number of votes, these tendered votes are not usually considered since they cannot tip the scales in any manner.

There have been a few instances when this law has been used. During the Rajasthan Assembly Elections in 2008, then Union Minister CP Joshi, contesting from the Nathdwara constituency, lost to BJP's Kalyan Singh Chouhan by one vote. Joshi had secured 62,215 votes and Chouhan had won 62,216 votes.

CP Joshi then moved the Rajasthan High Court in 2009, claiming that some of the votes cast were tendered. Joshi told the court that some of the votes were tendered votes cast under Section 49P of the Election Rules, 1961 and sought that these be included in the vote count. He also claimed that Chouhan's wife had voted illegally in two places.

In 2012, Chouhan's victory was nullified by the HC. However, Kalyan Singh Chouhan later approached the Supreme Court and the SC ordered a recount of the votes and asked that tender votes be included. After the recount, Joshi and Chouhan were tied with the same number of votes. In case of a tie, the law states that the winner be declared after a draw. Kalyan Singh Chouhan was thus chosen the Nathdwara MLA after the SC turned down Joshi's appeal seeking cancellation of the elections. 

In Sarkar, the constituency in which Sundar casts his vote has a candidate who wins by a wide margin. However, the former's insistence on casting his vote inspires others who'd been similarly cheated to do so, leading to the CM's swearing to be stopped.

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