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Kerala High Court Dismisses PC George MLA's Plea Seeking Postponement Of Local Body Elections Due To Covid-19

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
6 Nov 2020 5:25 AM GMT
Kerala High Court Dismisses PC George MLAs Plea Seeking Postponement Of Local Body Elections  Due To Covid-19
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The Kerala High Court has dismissed pleas challenging the conduct of elections to Local Bodies in Kerala, for the year 2020, in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic.MLA PC George had approached the High Court challenging the decision of Election Commission contending that the conduct of local body elections in the State of Kerala, in the present health scenario will be violative of...

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The Kerala High Court has dismissed pleas challenging the conduct of elections to Local Bodies in Kerala, for the year 2020, in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic.

MLA PC George had approached the High Court challenging the decision of Election Commission contending that the conduct of local body elections in the State of Kerala, in the present health scenario will be violative of citizen's fundamental right guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. He had also sought a direction from the court to defer elections to the local bodies, in the light of COVID-19 situation in Kerala.

State Election Commission's decision is to hold elections to all the Municipal Corporations, Municipalities and Panchayats, at all levels in the State, in a manner to complete the entire election process to all constituencies at the earliest, at any rate, before 31.12.2020. The Commission submitted before the court that the proceedings were issued only after considering the views and suggestions received from the deliberations, inputs, the advisory issued for control of COVID-19, by the Director of Health Services. It submitted that broad guidelines have been issued with regard to the key activities, in the matter of conducting elections to Local Self Government Institutions during COVID-19 pandemic.

Referring to the proceedings issued by the State Election Commission, the bench comprising the Chief Justice S. Manikumar and Justice Shaji P. Chaly noted that it has taken note of COVID-19 pandemic situation in Kerala, views expressed by the Director of Health Services, Government of Kerala, the political parties, mandate of the Constitution of India contained in Article 243-U.

The Court also extensively referred to a recent judgment of Patna High Court in Badri Narayan Singh v. The Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India which had dismissed pleas seeking for a direction to the Election Commission for the postponement of the impending Bihar Assembly Elections 2020. It was held therein that the ultimate decision on when to hold elections lies with the Commission and it cannot be assumed that the Election Commission has taken/or would take its decision without considering the prevailing situation.

The court said that the proceedings issued by the Election Commission thus cannot be held to be arbitrary, warranting interference. While dismissing the petition, the court observed:

"We are of the view that the Constitution of India is Supreme, and every decision of an authority under any Act, in the case on hand, the State Election Commission, should be, in accordance with the Constitutional mandate."
"Merely because there is a rise in the number of cases reported for COVID-19 subsequently, in particular, between 01.10.2020 to 31.10.2020, it cannot be contended that the State Election Commission has not considered the gravity and impact of COVID-19 cases. True that there is no indication by any of the authorities, including the Central Government or the authorities under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, as to when there would be an end to COVID-19 pandemic. But, that alone cannot be a ground, either to declare that the decision of the State Election Commission,to hold the elections, mandated as per the Constitutional provisions, as invalid or to issue any direction to the 2nd respondent to postpone the elections. 
Case: P.C. GEORGE MLA vs. STATE OF KERALA [WP(C).No.23341 OF 2020(S)]
Coram: Chief Justice S. Manikumar and Justice Shaji P. Chaly
Counsel: Sr. Adv GEORGE POONTHOTTAM, AAG RANJITH THAMPAN, Adv MURALI PURUSHOTHAMAN

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