MP by-polls: SC stays HC order asking parties to campaign virtually

The Election Commission of India and Madhya Pradesh Energy minister Pradyuman Singh Tomar had challenged the high court’s order in the top court

The opposition, led by the RJD's Tejashwi Yadav, targeted the Nitish Kumar-led government as it tried to make the violence an issue in the ongoing election .

The Supreme Court on Monday stayed Madhya Pradesh High Court order which made it mandatory for political parties to hold virtual campaigns and to not conduct physical rallies due to the Covid19 pandemic.

The SC bench, headed by Justice A M Khanwilkar, asked the Election Commission of India (ECI) to take a serious note of grievances raised before the High Court and take a decision with regard to political rallies as per law while keeping Covid-19 standard operating procedures in mind.

On October 20, Madhya Pradesh High Court passed an order on mode and manner of campaigning for the upcoming bye-elections, asking political parties to conduct their campaign virtually instead of holding physical rallies due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Supreme Court was hearing pleas of the Election Commission of India and Madhya Pradesh Energy minister Pradyuman Singh Tomar challenging the high court’s order.

Tomar, who is contesting the bypolls from Gwalior, had argued that the bye-election rules permit him to hold election rallies through physical gatherings. Tomar said the October 20 HC order is in violation of his right to organize election rallies and asked the apex court to stay it.

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The Election Commission too opposed the HC order, stating that “conduct and management of elections are overseen by it under the Constitution and Article 329 bars judicial interference in the middle of the electoral process.

The SC bench asked senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Tomar, to make a representation to the poll body for loss of time in electioneering due to HC’s order.

The high court had asked District Magistrates not to grant permission for physical congregations for election campaigns unless it can be proved that conduct of a virtual campaign is not possible, subject to EC approval.

In its order, the High Court had said: “In a contest/clash between right to campaigning and right to health and life, it is obvious that the right to health and life takes precedence. Right to health and life is comparatively more exalted, sacred and precious right when compared with the right to canvassing & campaigning. Thus, the right of candidate to campaign has to yield to the right to health and life of the electorate.”

The by-elections to 28 seats will be held in Madhya Pradesh on November 3 and the results will be declared on November 10.

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