SC stays MP HC order asking political parties to conduct virtual campaign for bypoll

PTI

Supreme Court of India

The Supreme Court on Monday stayed the Madhya Pradesh High Court order asking political parties to conduct their campaign for the November 3 assembly bypolls virtually instead of holding physical rallies due to COVID-19.

A bench headed by Justice A M Khanwilkar asked the Election Commission of India (ECI) to take an appropriate decision with regard to political rallies as per law and keeping in mind COVID-19 guidelines.

The top court was hearing pleas of the ECI and Madhya Pradesh Energy minister Pradyuman Singh Tomar challenging the high court’s order of October 20.

The top court also asked senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Tomar, to make a representation to the ECI for loss of time in electioneering due to HC’s order.

The poll panel has assailed the HC order, saying the conduct and management of elections are overseen by it under the Constitution and Article 329 of the Constitution puts an express bar on judicial interference in midst of electoral process.

The plea said the poll panel’s COVID-19 guidelines on election rallies or meetings were formulated on September 25 in exercise of its powers.

As per guidelines and the SOP of the state government, political gatherings of over 100 people with safety measures can be allowed, it said.

Tomar, who is contesting as a BJP candidate from Gwalior constituency for the bypoll in Madhya Pradesh, submitted in his plea that the high court has erred in its finding as the ECI under Article 324 of Constitution has issued its COVID-19 guidelines dated September 29, permitting physical gatherings for election campaigns subject to specified restrictions.

Bypoll for 28 assembly seats in the state will be held on November 3.