Physical poll rallies in 9 MP districts can held now, says Supreme Court

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Physical poll rallies in 9 Madhya Pradesh districts can be held for now. Representational image of poll rallies in MP.

Physical poll rallies in 9 Madhya Pradesh districts can be held for now, the Supreme Court on Monday ordered. Earlier, the High Court had restricted holding physical poll rallies in the state due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

The Supreme Court on Monday put on hold the MPHC’s move to restrict physical political rallies in the nine districts. It now allowed physical election rallies in Madhya Pradesh.

Ahead of the coming by-elections in 28 seats, the Gwalior Bench of the HC last week asked that magistrates of the districts under its jurisdiction not give permission to any candidate or political party for public gatherings unless they can prove that virtual election campaign is not possible.

Physical poll rallies

The top court said it is the Election Commission which needs to look 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 say whatever illegality the high court has been flagged, you will take cognizance of that. You must take responsibility,” a bench headed by Justice AM Khanwilkar said.

Supreme Court pulled up political parties also, for creating a situation that compelled the high court to intervene. “Had political parties maintained the protocol, this situation wouldn’t have arisen,” the top court said.

The Court was hearing the petitions of the Election Commission and Madhya Pradesh Energy Minister Pradyuman Singh Tomar.

‘HC order interferes poll process’

Citing that the High Court order interferes with poll process, the Election Commission had approached the Supreme Court. It said that holding elections is its domain and the order would derail the poll process. The curbs will impact the level playing field for candidates, the election body had said.

Tomar, who is contesting as a BJP candidate from Gwalior constituency for the bypoll, said that the HC has erred in its finding as the election body has issued its COVID-19 guidelines dated September 29, permitting “physical gatherings” for election campaigns subject to specified restrictions.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, who represented him, said the Election Commission should consider the fact that he lost six days of campaigning and whether he should get more time to campaign. He said three hours a day should be added for the minister to campaign.

Twenty-eight seats of Madhya Pradesh will be up for by-election in next month. Most of these seats fell vacant as Jyotiraditya Scindia switched camp from the Congress to the BJP with his loyalists.

The Election Commission has earlier approached the Supreme Court against MP High Court’s move to restrict physical political rallies in nine districts, in view of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Court allowed physical rallies in MP, setting aside the HC order to restrict physical rallies in nine districts on hold.

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