The Election Commission has approached the Supreme Court against an order of Madhya Pradesh High Court which put restrictions on the physical campaigning by candidates for the assembly by-elections in the nine districts of the state due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The move came after the Gwalior Bench of the High Court on Wednesday ordered the magistrates of the districts to allow any physical rallies only if political parties or candidates can prove that a virtual campaign is not possible.The permission would become effective only after the election commission approves it in writing, the court said while hearing a petition filed by Gwalior-based advocate Ashish Pratap Singh.
The court also said, in case the physical rally is held, the parties and candidates would be required to deposit sufficient funds with the District Magistrate for double the required number of masks and sanitizers for the participants.
The districts include Gwalior, Bhind, Ashok Nagar, Guna, Morena, Datia, Shivpuri, Sheopur and Vidisha.
However, the Election Commission in its petition said the high court order interferes with the poll process and has been passed in total disregard of commission’s guidelines on gatherings and the coronavirus protocol that allowed such congregations with restrictions. The conduct and management of elections is its domain under the constitution, and the order would derail the poll process, the election body said.
The restrictions will impact the level playing field for candidates, the poll watchdog further added. The petition also referred to Article 329 of the Constitution, which obstructs interference by courts in electoral matters.
The election body has requested the apex court for urgent listing of its appeal as the next hearing in the High Court is expected to take place on Friday.
The Madhya Pradesh government too had decided to approach the Supreme Court against the high court order.On Thursday, chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said his party will move the Supreme Court even as he cancelled two of his political rallies in Gwalior-Chambal region in view of the Gwalior bench’s order.
Two Bharatiya Janata Party candidates have also challenged the order before the Supreme Court in the two separate pleas. The petitions said the high court order should not interfere with their right to contest elections and hence be set aside.
Meanwhile, 28 seats of Madhya Pradesh will be up for assembly by-election in next month.