The Bihar Assembly polls due later this year are very much on, the Supreme Court has held, rejecting a petition that the polls should be cancelled in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Various parties, including the ruling NDA ally Lok Janshakti Party, want the elections postponed. But the JD-U led by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his partner, the BJP, have already begun poll preparations and expressed themselves for the polls.
Last week, the Election Commission announced new rules for voting in the time of Covid-19.
The Supreme Court said on Friday that the coronavirus crisis cannot be a “valid reason” for stopping elections. “Covid cannot be a ground for stopping elections and interfering with the powers of the Election Commission,” the Supreme Court said, calling the petition “premature” as there was no notification yet announcing the Bihar poll dates.
“This court cannot tell the Chief Election Commissioner what to do. He (CEC) will consider everything,” the judges said.
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“No notification has been issued. How can we ask the Election Commission to not hold elections?” said the court.
The Election Commission “will take all the necessary precautions and consider everything,” the court told petitioner Avinash Thakur, who had asked for the court’s intervention to put off the polls.
The petitioner maintained the Supreme Court could seek a report from the Bihar disaster management authority on the coronavirus situation in the state.
Among the steps that the EC has announced for holding polls during the pandemic are: there should be not more than five people for door-to-door campaigns and gloves for voters. A maximum of 1,000 voters can be present at any polling booth at a time, and every voter’s body temperature will be checked before the person is allowed to enter the polling booth. The rules also allow candidates to complete their paperwork online.
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Bihar has reported 1,28,780 coronavirus cases and 538 deaths.