- The Madhya Pradesh High Court ordered against physical campaigning due to COVID-19
- The 20th and 23rd October orders from HC was stayed by the Supreme Court of India
- SC has asked the Election Commission of India to look into the matter
On Monday, the Supreme Court of India stayed the order passed by the High Court of Madhya Pradesh restricting the political parties from physical campaigning during the state by-elections amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The top court had asked the Election Commission of India to look into the matter and consider the objections raised against the Madhya Pradesh’s High Court in its order.
The bench of the apex court clarified that it has not expressed anything on the merit of the case and has left it to the Election Commission of India to consider the issue and proceed with the scenario in accordance with the law.
The case will now be heard after 6 weeks.
On the 20th and 23rd of October, the Madhya Pradesh High Court had asked the political parties contesting the by-elections in the state should restrict their campaigning to virtual modes only as the country is still facing the novel Coronavirus pandemic.
The bench of the Supreme Court of India which comprised of Justices A M Khanwikar, Dinesh Maheshwari, and Sanjiv Khanna has passed the order in petitions filed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Pradhuman Singh Tomar and EC challenging the order passed by the MP High Court directing virtual campaigning only during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pradhuman Singh Tomar, who is contesting the elections from Gwalior, sought a stay on the orders from the MP High Court through his petition arguing that it was in violation of his rights to contest elections.
Senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, arguing for the Election Commission of India, said that the order from the High Court had “paralyzed” the election process in the state.
The election panel said, in its petition, that the order from the MP High Court interfered with its powers and was against the process of the poll. The panel added that the process of conducting the election was within the powers of the Election Commission.
It also argued that the order would affect the level playing field for the candidates in the state.
Telling the SC bench, the panel said, the guidelines for conducting polls amidst the pandemic have already been laid down.
The Supreme Court bench said, “Your role as Election Commission is wider. You should have informed the authorities well. Public meetings need not be regulated, but see that the protocols are followed. Only you can ensure free and fair elections. High Court cannot take a call here.”
It added, “You (EC) need to set right the situation and check for illegalities and ask authorities to take action. We will say that you will take cognizance of all issues before the High Court and take responsibility,”.
The upcoming by-election in Madhya Pradesh will be contested on 28 seats and will decide the fate of the state’s Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan-led BJP government.
The polling will take place on the 3rd of November while the counting will take place on the 10th of November, i.e. a week later.