The high court had on 20 October and 23 October asked political parties to restrict their campaigning to virtual modes only owing to the ongoing pandemic
NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday stayed the Madhya Pradesh High Court’s order restricting political parties from physical campaigning during the state by-elections amid the covid-19 pandemic. The court asked the Election Commission of India to look into the matter and consider the objections raised against the high court’s order.
The top court bench clarified that it has not expressed anything on the merit of the case but has left it to the Election Commission to consider the issue and proceed with the matter in accordance with law. The case will be next heard after 6 weeks.
The high court had on 20 October and 23 October asked political parties contesting by-elections in the state to restrict their campaigning to virtual modes only owing to the ongoing pandemic.
The apex court bench, comprising Justices AM Khanwikar, Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjiv Khanna, passed the order in petitions filed by BJP leader Pradhuman Singh Tomar and EC challenging the MP High court directing virtual campaigning amidst covid-19 pandemic.
Tomar, who is contesting from Gwalior, while seeking a stay on the order argued that it was in violation to his rights to contest elections.
Arguing for EC, senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi said the high court order had effectively "paralyzed" the election process in the state.
The election panel asserted in its petition that the HC’s order interfered with its powers and was against the poll process. It added that process of conducting election was within the domain of EC. It also argued that the order would affect the level playing field for candidates.
The panel told the bench that guidelines for conducting polls amidst the pandemic have already been laid down.
The 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."
"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 High Court and take responsibility," the court said.
The upcoming by-elections on 28 seats of Madhya Pradesh will decide the fate of chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in the state. Polling will take place on 3 November and counting on 10 November.
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