Rajasthan govt’s plea to defer local body polls due to pandemic upheld by High Court

The state government had requested the state Election Commission to defer the poll because of the coronavirus outbreak, but it had refused to entertain the request

Drugs from antibodies of Covid-19 survivors
Drugs from antibodies of Covid-19 survivors

Prakash Bhandari

The Rajasthan government had to seek judicial intervention to force the autonomous state Election Commission to defer the civic poll in six municipal corporation of the state. The Jaipur bench of Rajasthan High Court, on the plea of the state government’s urban development department, deferred the poll because of the coronavirus outbreak that has sent panic wave in the state.

The High Court after hearing the plea of the state government deferred the poll by six weeks. The poll was due on April 15.

There are more than 35 lakh voters in the newly formed six municipal corporation where the poll was scheduled next month. The High Court had earlier ordered that the elections in the six municipal corporation of Jaipur, Jodhpur and Kota should be completed by mid-April.

The state government had requested the state Election Commission to defer the poll because of the coronavirus outbreak, but the state Election Commission’s chief P S Mehra refused to entertain the same.

The Election Commission had said that polls for the 500 wards of the six new corporations of Jaipur Heritage, Jaipur Greater, Jodhpur North, Jodhpur South, Kota North and Kota South could be deferred only after the High Court orders to that effect.

Now after a division bench of Sangeet Lodha and Manok Kumar Vyas deferred the plea, the notification that was to be issued by the state Election Commission on Thursday has been deferred. Several PILs were also filed by individuals for the postponement of the civic poll.

Deferring the poll, the court said under the circumstances when even World Health Organisation has declared COVID-19 as a pandemic and the immediate priority of the state and Union government is to contain its menace and save the life of the citizens, it would be in the interest of the people that the poll be deferred.

The advocate general Mahendra Singhvi told the court that since an advisory has been issued by the Union government declaring it as a national disaster, directing the state government to avoid all mass gathering of the people, holding the civic poll under this circumstances would be dangerous as this would require deployment of 15,000 state government employees and police also.

The state Election Commission and the state government had been at loggerheads on the issue of postponement of the civic poll. As the state Election Commission was ordered by the High Court to complete the election process in the six municipal corporations by April 18, the state Election Commission (SEC) refused to move the High Court seeking deferment of the poll because of the coronavirus.

The SEC also insisted that after the High Court order, the dates of the civic poll were fixed in consultation with the government and now the state government was insisting on deferring the poll. But the SEC refused to go to the High Court for deferment.

As a result the state government after holding a high-powered meeting chaired by the urban development minister Shanti Kumar Dhariwal decided to move the High Court and seek redressal. The SEC was unmoved by the requests made by the district Collectors of Jaipur, Kota and Jodhpur and also the local MLAs to defer the poll.

Both the BJP and the Congress has welcomed the decision of the High Court.

Meanwhile, a total of 484 Indian who were flown from Iran after evacuation are in the wellness camp of the army in Jaisalmer. They are being looked after by the army doctors and para medical staff at the quarantine area. The Indians who were brought to the desert city by special planes were screened in the apron area and were not brought to the terminal building and after the screening they were taken to the quarantine facility area set up by the army personnel.

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