The Supreme Court has on 18 March, refused to interfere with the decision of Andhra Pradesh State Election Commission, to postpone the local body elections in the state by six weeks, due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
The bench comprising of Chief Justice of India SA Bobde, Justices BR Gavai, and Surya Kant was hearing a plea filed by the Andhra Pradesh government against the decision of State Election Commission, which has imposed the Model Code of Conduct to postpone the local body elections in the State, because of Coronavirus. The plea contended that a large number of developmental activities have been suspended because of such a decision by the State Election Commission.
Additional Solicitor General ANS Nadkarni, appearing for the state government mentioned to the court that the imposition of the Model Code of Conduct would not be justified if the elections are postponed. He further stated that the Election Commission was not entitled to postpone the elections without appropriate consultation with the state government.
Meanwhile, the Senior advocate Shekhar Naphade, appearing for the Election Commission, submitted that the State is not entitled to move this court by way of the filing writ petition, under Article 32 of the Constitution of India.
Observing the above arguments, the apex court held that “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 a possible outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID 19) epidemic in the country. We, therefore, decline to interfere with the said decision of the Election Commission.”
The court then directed the State Government to take prior permission of the respondent Election Commission, before taking any fresh developmental activities, while stating that in no circumstances the State Government shall be prevented from taking the necessary steps to curb the menace of coronavirus pandemic.
Further, the apex court lifted the model code of conduct in the state-imposed due to the local body polls and directed that the Election Commission shall impose the model code four weeks before the notified date of polling.
“The Model Code of Conduct for the elections shall be reimposed four weeks before the date of polling,” stated the SC bench.
Earlier, on 16 March, the Andhra Pradesh State Election Commission has deferred the local body elections by six weeks, due to the coronavirus scare and also owing to incidents of violence being reported since election dates were announced. Following this decision of State Election Commission, the ruling YSR Congress Party stated that it will contest the Election Commission’s move in the Supreme Court.
The elections to rural local bodies and urban local bodies were scheduled to be held on March 21 and March 23 respectively. Polling for Panchayats was scheduled to be held in two phases on March 27 and 29.