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COVID-19 crisis: EC To Take HC Appeal Into Account Before Announcing UP Polls; Rallies To Continue For Now

The Election Commission will take into consideration the Allahabad High Court's order before announcing the dates for the UP polls, the CEC stated on Thursday.

Image: Republic TV

The Election Commission will take into consideration the Allahabad High Court's order before announcing the dates for the UP polls, Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra stated on Thursday. He was responding to a question after the completion of the EC's visit to the state to review the poll preparedness. In an order dated December 23, the HC had requested the EC to stop all rallies and delay the UP polls for a couple of months owing to the COVID-19 crisis. While refraining from commenting on whether the election will be delayed, he revealed that all parties wanted the polls to take place on time.

Weighing in on the possibility of deferring polls, CEC Sushil Chandra remarked, "The Election Commission will fulfill its constitutional mandate. We will take into consideration all aspects whether it is the increasing COVID-19 cases or the huge rallies. Only then, we will announce the elections."

Indicating that the massive rallies taking place across UP at present can continue, he said, "We have discussed this with the Union Health Secretary, the state Health Secretary, the CS and all DOs. Whenever the election will be announced, this point will definitely be considered on how the big rallies will be managed and whether digital rallies or digital communication will have to be increased. When elections are announced, detailed guidelines will be released. It is a dynamic situation."

He elaborated, "The mandate of the Election Commission starts when we impose the MCC. Before that, it is the responsibility of the district administration and action will be taken under the SDMA. The moment when we announce elections and MCC comes into play, we will consider whatever you say (on restricting poll rallies)." 

Allahabad HC's observations

While allowing the bail application of a petitioner in a case, a single-judge bench of Justice Shekhar Kumar Yadav observed, "Today, all parties are gathering crowds of lakhs in their rallies and public meetings as the Uttar Pradesh polls are drawing close. It is not possible to follow any kind of COVID-19 norms there and if we don't stop them, the outcome will be even more dangerous than the second wave. In such a situation, the court appeals to the Election Commission to immediately ban rallies, public meetings and other events where a crowd can gather.

He elaborated, "And political parties should be directed to carry out their entire campaign and rallies without a crowd and via virtual mode and newspaper. And if it is possible, delay the elections scheduled to take place in February by 1-2 months. Because election rallies can only take place if lives are saved. The rallies can happen in future too and the right to life has been given in Article 21 of the Constitution". Additionally, a PIL has also been filed in the Supreme Court demanding a restriction on rallies in poll-bound states and enforcement of COVID-19 norms. 

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