EC approaches SC over restrictions on physical rallies in MP
The Election Commission (EC) approached the Supreme Court to contest an earlier order of the Madhya Pradesh High Court that imposed restrictions on physical rallies in the state ahead of the by-polls scheduled for next month. The by-polls are being held for 28 seats. This week, the Gwalior bench of the High Court levied restrictions considering the coronavirus pandemic. Here are more details.
Magistrates of nine districts were told to discourage physical rallies
Magistrates of nine districts — Gwalior, Guna, Morena, Bhind, Ashok Nagar, Datia, Shivpuri, Sheopur, and Vidisha — were told not to give permission for public events and push for virtual campaigns instead. The bench of Justices Sheel Nagu and Rajeev Kumar said the right to health of a common man was more sacred than the right to election campaigning of a politician.
Politicians want to exploit gullible voters for ulterior motives: HC
Hearing the petition of advocate Ashish Pratap Singh, HC said that politicians are leaving no stone unturned to draw voters out of the safety of their homes to a congregation "to achieve their ulterior motive of gaining popularity to obtain votes, and leaving the gullible and innocent common man to go home carrying COVID-19 virus." DMs were asked to decide on physical rallies.
For physical events, court imposed a number of measures
The court said all physical events should be disallowed. Only after the magistrate is convinced that the candidate can't hold a virtual event, the permission should be given. Even after this, the permission "shall become effective only after the Election Commission of India (ECI) approves the same in writing," HC said. The candidate should also deposit money with the magistrate to purchase masks and sanitizers, the court added.
Holding polls is our responsibility, EC told SC
Clearly displeased with the HC order, EC, through advocate Amit Sharma, told SC that it oversees all things related to elections. The petition mentioned Article 329 of the Constitution which restricts courts from interfering in electoral matters. EC claimed HC's order disregards its coronavirus guidelines and the orders issued by the state. The HC order could disrupt the level-playing field, EC told SC.
Two BJP candidates also went to SC against HC's directive
Two BJP candidates — Pradyuman Singh Tomar (Gwalior) and Munnalal Goyal (Gwalior East) — also asked the SC to urgently list their pleas against HC's order. They wanted the directive junked, saying it interfered with their right to contest polls. The pleas, filed by advocate Astha Sharma, reminded that EC, the state government, and Centre, hadn't put curbs on physical rallies.
Chouhan also felt the order was "unfair"
Yesterday, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan revealed his government could also approach SC against the HC's order. "We respect the High Court and its decision. But regarding this decision, we will go to the Supreme Court, because it is like having two laws in a single land," he said, adding that rallies are allowed in some parts, and not in others.
MP set for high-staked battle between Congress and BJP
The upcoming by-polls carries high stakes, considering it is the first one being held after Congress' Kamal Nath lost the CM chair to Chouhan. His government crumbled after Jyotiraditya Scindia, along with his nearly two dozen loyalists, quit Congress. Interestingly, the same bench which put restrictions on rallies also ordered FIR against Union Minister Narendra Singh Tomar and Nath for violating coronavirus protocols.