Photo: Mint
Photo: Mint

Election Commission defers Rajya Sabha polls over virus woes

  • The deferment was possible as there is no legal binding that all Rajya Sabha seats must be occupied at all times
  • Polling for electing 18 Rajya Sabha members was scheduled to take place on Thursday

NEW DELHI : The Election Commission (EC) on Tuesday deferred elections for Rajya Sabha as vast parts of India have been placed under a lockdown to stem the spread of the deadly coronavirus. The decision comes a day after the Parliament was adjourned sine die on the same grounds.

Polling for electing 18 Rajya Sabha members, 37 were already elected unopposed, was scheduled to take place on Thursday. With the deferment of polls, the strength of the House will get reduced but there is no legal binding that all Rajya Sabha seats should be occupied at all times so the deferment was made possible.

“The prevailing unforeseen situation of public health emergency indicates the need for avoidance of possibilities of gatherings of any nature, which expose all concerned to possible health hazard," the EC said in a press note adding that since the polling will require gathering of a large number of people, it will “not be suitable in the view of the prevailing unforeseen situation and related advisories in the country."

The EC’s decision relies on Section 153 of the Representation of People’s Act (RPA) which empowers it to extend the time for completion of any election by making necessary amendments to its notification. “Fresh date of poll and counting for the said biennial elections shall be announced in due course after reviewing prevailing situation," Tuesday’s press note by EC said.

The 18 Rajya Sabha seats for which elections are due include four each from Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh, three each from Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, two from Jharkhand and one each from Manipur and Meghalaya.

Earlier this week, the Gujarat government requested EC to postpone the Rajya Sabha elections.

Given the lockdown in many states, key political and legislative activities have been also put on hold. Against the backdrop of demands from various opposition parties, Parliament was adjourned sine die on Monday. Most legislative assemblies too have either curtailed their sessions or postponed it.

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