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Supreme Court on Monday has stayed the Gwalior bench of Madhya Pradesh High Court’s October 20 orders restraining political parties from physical gatherings and opt for virtual election campaigning for by-elections.

Senior counsel Ramesh Dwivedi appeared for Election Commission stated, “We had issued guidelines, please appreciate the requirements of balancing the election with the campaigning.”

“It’s the EC which needs to go into these issues. You take initiative, set right the situation. If there is any illegality going on it’s for you to ask the authority to take action. We will stay the high court Judgment and leave it to ECI to take action on all allegations and grievances,” observed the court.

The court was hearing a petition filed by Election Commission and two BJP candidates, Pradyuman Tomar and Munnalal Goyal. They claimed that this decision has paralyzed the election process with few days remaining for the election. The BJP candidates had requested the court to allow the Election Commission to take their request into consideration to grant additional time for campaigning as they have already lost 7 days of campaigning.

The apex court three judge bench headed by A M Khanwilkar pulled up the Election Commission for not taking a proactive role in the enforcement of COVID-19 protocol in the election rallies. The bench also stated that had it taken a proactive role in enforcing the Covid SOPs of social distancing, the HC would not have interfered in the matter.

“You should have intervened at the appropriate level and asked the government to take steps. At public meetings you should have ensured SOP was followed and those candidates who were found to violate ought to have been issued notice. We wish you were proactive to supervise elections better. If parties maintained protocol, this situation would not have arisen,” the court said.

The poll panel has challenged the HC order stating that the conduct and management of elections are overlooked by it under the Constitution and Article 329 of the Constitution puts an express bar on judicial interference in midst of electoral process.

Bypoll for 28 assembly seats are scheduled for November 3.

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