THE Uttarakhand High Court on Wednesday directed the Election Commission of India (ECI) to consider issuing directions prohibiting large public rallies for the ensuing elections to the state’s Legislative Assembly and to take a decision in this regard.
A division bench of Acting Chief Justice S.K. Mishra and Justice Alok Kumar Verma asked the Commission to consider issuing directions for campaigning in virtual mode. Besides, it urged the Commission to consider the alternative of virtual voting in the future.
It has also called for a report from the state government on the COVID-19 situation in the state. The matter will now be heard on January 12.
The order came to be passed on a batch of petitions concerning the COVID-19 crisis in the state. With the recent rise in the COVID-19 cases due to the highly transmissible Omicron variant of the virus, an application was filed in the high court by advocate Shiv Bhatt in the pending cases, seeking postponement of elections. On December 29, last year, the High Court had asked the Standing Counsel for the Election Commission to take instruction in the matter.
The assembly polls in Uttrakhand are due in February this year though the Commission is yet to announce the schedule. The term of the current assembly, elected in 2017, will expire on March 23.
In his application, Bhatt has contended that the Omicron variant is spreading 300 per cent faster than any other variant of COVID and therefore, to protect the lives of people, it is necessary that large gatherings like election rallies be avoided.
Last month, the Allahabad High Court urged the Election Commission to postpone the upcoming legislative assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh by as much as two months, citing the coronavirus pandemic. Following the High Court’s order, an Election Commission team, led by Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra, had visited the state. In its discussion with the political parties, the Commission found that all the political parties wanted the election to be conducted on time while following COVID-19 protocol.