Duty Of Every Citizen To Co-Operate In The Election Process: Madras HC Dismisses Plea Against LS Polls On Maundy Thursday [Read Judgment]
"Ensure that people are allowed to pray in the churches, which are situated adjacent to the polling booths, without any hindrance."
The Madras High Court, on Friday, dismissed pleas seeking to reschedule the election date in Tamil Nadu to any other day than Maundy Thursday.
The General Elections is scheduled on 18th April 2019 in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry which happens to be Maundy Thursday, a sacred day for Christian community worldwide. Aggrieved with this, Dr. Antony Pappusamy, Archbishop, and some Christian organisations approached the Madras High court by filing a PIL seeking a direction to reschedule the election dates.
The petitioners contended that conducting election on Maundy Thursday will have the effect of causing disturbance to the Christian community. Christian Teachers and other Christian staff/ workers, used for polling work, it was urged, would not able to attend religious mandatory service, because the teachers would be engaged in election polling duty for the whole day very early from the morning and very late in the evening and also many of the polling stations are organized in schools inside Church Campuses. Moreover, it was highlighted that there are a lot of church run schools in the state, and the conduct of elections on Maundy Thursday would affect those who come to church premises for worship.
Objecting to the plea, the Election Commission of India, in its counter affidavit, contended that occurrence of a religious festival cannot be a ground to change election date. Even festivals like Ramzan, Mahavir Jayanthi and various local festivals etc., also occur during this election season, and for every festival, if elections are to be postponed, it would not be practically possible to conduct election, the commission stated.
The bench comprising Justice S. Manikumar and Justice Subramonium Prasad agreed with the stand taken by Election Commission and observed that once the election schedule is fixed, it should not be interfered with, unless some event occurs, which was not in the contemplation of the election commission. It is well settled that the writ Court should not ordinarily except in rarest of rare cases, interfere with the schedule fixed by the Election Commission of India, while exercising its jurisdiction, under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, the court added.
While dismissing the petition, the bench observed:
"Since the polling is fixed on Maundy Thursday, it is expected that the Election Commission will take adequate steps to ensure that people are allowed to pray in the churches, which are situated adjacent to the polling booths, without any hindrance. It is also the duty of every citizen to co-operate in the election process."