Only the Election Commission of India (ECI) is competent to decide when to conduct bye-elections, the Madhya Pradesh (MP) High Court recently opined while dismissing a plea which sought to defer bye elections to the Khandwa parliamentary constituency and Prathvipur, Jobat and Rajgarh assembly constituencies in MP.
In the case of Nagrik Upbhokta Margdarshak Manch v. State of Madhya Pradesh, the ECI placed on record a press note of September 4, as per which it had decided to not conduct bye-elections in other 31 assembly constituencies and 3 parliamentary constituencies owing to COVID-19. However, considering the constitutional exigency and special request from the State of West Bengal, it had decided to hold a bye-election in Bhabanipur, it was added.
Advocate Dinesh Kumar Upadhyay appeared for the petitioner while Additional Advocate General Pushpendra Yadav appeared for the State government. Advocate Siddharth Seth appeared for ECI.
Arguments Before the Court
The petitioner Nagrik Upbhokta Margdarshak Manch had sought deferment of bye-polls citing possibility of a third wave of COVID-19. A further prayer was made to direct the ECI to conduct the bye-elections only after assessing the ground situation of Coronavirus in the State.
Observations by the Court
The court observed that it was a settled position of law that Article 324 of the Constitution is a reservoir of power for the Election Commission to act in such vacuous area where enacted laws make no provisions or make ‘insufficient provisions’ to deal with the situation confronting the Election Commission in the conduct of elections as held in catena of judgments.
It was further observed that even during the Covid-19 pandemic, the ECI had issued broad guidelines for conduct of general elections/ bye-elections envisaging directions for political campaigns, meetings, number of electors in polling stations, polling station arrangements along with punishment for violations.
The Court held that only the Election Commission of India is competent to decide as to when should the bye-elections to Parliamentary Constituency be held. There was no reason to assume that such a decision shall not be taken by the Commissioner after assessing the situation of COVID-19 on ground. The Bench said that the Election Commission is fully cognizant of the situation of Corona virus and has therefore, taken a conscious decision.
The High Court, relied on Mohinder Singh Gill vs. The Chief Election Commissioner, wherein it opined that decisions regarding elections should not be interfered with as the ECI is best suited to decide the same.
In view of the same, the Court said that no interference is warranted in the present matter and proceeded to dismiss the plea.
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