SC stays MP HC order directing virtual campaigning for scheduled by-polls

The Supreme Court Monday stayed a Madya Pradesh High Court order directing the virtual mode of election campaigning for the scheduled by-polls in the State. It, however, directed the Election Commission of India (ECI) to examine the issue raised by the High Court and take action in accordance with the law.

A three-judge bench led by Justice A M Khanwaliker was hearing two petitions filed by BJP leader Pradhuman Singh Tomar and the ECI against the High Court order.

The bench, at the outset, pulled up the Election Commission and said it should have been more proactive. The HC would not have had to interfere if the EC had monitored the situation well, the bench, also comprising Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjiv Khanna, said.

Justice Dinesh Maheshwari, Justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice Sanjiv Khanna.

“Your role as Election Commission is wider. You should have informed the authorities well. Public meetings need not be regulated, but see that the protocols are followed. Only you can ensure free and fair elections. High Court cannot take a call here. You need to set right the situation and check for illegalities and ask authorities to take action”, the bench remarked.

Senior Advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, for the ECI, submitted that it was following guidelines issued by the Centre on Covid19. He argued that the High Court order had “paralyzed” the election process in the state and the order amounted to an interference with the poll process because the holding of elections was within its (EC’s) domain.

Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi assisted by AoR Advocate Astha Sharma, for Tomar, submitted that seven days of campaigning had already been lost and the court could consider granting two or three more days for campaigning.

The bench, however, refused to pass any order in this regard and said it would be open for political parties to make representations to the ECI.

Bypoll for 28 Assembly seats in the state will be held on November 3.

The Leaflet