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No reason to interfere with EC decision to defer local body polls in Andhra Pradesh due to Coronavirus: Supreme Court

Shruti Mahajan

The Supreme Court today found no reason to interfere with the decision taken by the Election Commission (EC) to postpone local body elections in Andhra Pradesh on account of the Coronavirus outbreak.

The Bench of Chief Justice of India SA Bobde and Justices BR Gavai and Surya Kant held that the EC's decision to postpone the polls by six weeks on account of the COVID-19 outbreak did not need to be interfered with.The poll bodyu contested the maintainability of the writ filed by the State with Senior Counsel Shekhar Naphade questioning the locus to move the Apex Court under Article 32.

CJI SA Bobde and Justices BR Gavai and Surya Kant
CJI SA Bobde and Justices BR Gavai and Surya Kant

The State of Andhra Pradesh had challenged the notification of the EC declaring that the polls be held after six weeks from the scheduled date.

The EC had contested the maintainability of the writ filed by the State, with Senior Counsel Shekhar Naphade questioning its locus to move the Apex Court under Article 32.

The Court ultimately held,

"We do not see any reason why this Court should interfere with the decision of the respondent - Election Commission to postpone the elections particularly since the postponement is due to possible outbreak of Corona virus (COVID 19) epidemic in the country. We therefore decline to interfere with the said decision of the Election Commission."
Supreme Court

It was pointed out on behalf of the State that while the polls stood deferred, the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) remained imposed, and this led to the temporary stalling of the development work that was going on.

ASG ANS Nadkarni, appearing for the State, argued that it would not be justified for the MCC to remain imposed when the election itself was postponed.

The Court, agreeing with this submission, directed the Eelction Commission to lift the imposition of the MCC and reimpose the same four weeks prior to when the poll dates are notified.

Further, the Court said that it did not wish to go into the question of maintainability of the plea. It thus passed the following direction:

"We direct that since the Election Commission has already taken the decision to postpone the Elections, there shall be a post decisional consultation with the State of Andhra Pradesh before the next date is notified by the Election Commission. The Model Code of Conduct for the elections shall be reimposed four weeks before the date of polling."

It further added that development activities that were suspended on account of the MCC shall not be interrupted further until the Code is reimposed again after notification of new poll dates.

However, the Court made it clear that the if state government wishes to undertake any fresh developmental activities, it shall do so only with the prior permission of the Election Commission. It further held,

"In no circumstance, the State Government shall be prevented from taking necessary steps to curb the menace of Corona Virus (COVID 19) epidemic."
Supreme Court

With these observations and directions, the matter was disposed of.

[Read Order]

State of Andhra Pradesh vs Andhra Pradesh State election commission.pdf
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