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Madras High Court Refuses To Restrain SEC From Notifying Urban Local Body Polls Amid Covid-19

Sebin James
21 Jan 2022 11:20 AM GMT
Madras High Court Refuses To Restrain SEC From Notifying Urban Local Body Polls Amid Covid-19
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The Madras High Court has adjourned a plea filed by a doctor, M. Nakkeeran, for postponing the urban local body polls in light of the worsening pandemic situation. Meanwhile, it has refused to grant any relief in the form of an interim stay on notifying/ conducting urban local body polls. The bench of Acting Chief Justice Munishwar Nath Bhandari and Justice PD Audikesavalu has...

The Madras High Court has adjourned a plea filed by a doctor, M. Nakkeeran, for postponing the urban local body polls in light of the worsening pandemic situation. Meanwhile, it has refused to grant any relief in the form of an interim stay on notifying/ conducting urban local body polls.

The bench of Acting Chief Justice Munishwar Nath Bhandari and Justice PD Audikesavalu has deferred hearing till Monday, i.e., 24th January.

On Monday, the court will hear the plea of Nakkeeran along with other petitioners who have approached the court with the same grievances. Counsels have been permitted to appear physically, given technical problems faced by them in the virtual mode.

Today, appearing for the doctor, Senior Counsel S. Prabhakaran, submitted that the state has been in the clutches of an extreme pandemic situation. The rising number of cases each day has become a grave concern and the conduct of polls without considering the prevailing situation will be catastrophic, contended the counsel. By now, numerous containment zones have been demarcated by the Government, he added.

He argued that Tamil Nadu State Election Commission is likely to notify the polls soon since the Supreme Court had directed the Commission to notify the polls within four months, the last date within that time frame being January 27.

About not approaching the Supreme Court, the senior counsel referred to the apex court order in Re: Distribution Of Essential Supplies And Services During Pandemic (2021), where the court has categorically stated that the purpose of assuming jurisdiction suo moto under Article 32 is 'not to supplant or substitute the process of hearings undertaken by various High Courts' to deal with issues related to pandemic.

"High Courts are best situated to make an assessment of ground realities in each states and find flexible solutions for the problems faced by citizens. Therefore, we see no reason or justification to interdict the High Courts", the Bench comprising of Justices DY Chandrachud, L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat had noted then.

The senior counsel quoted the above statements by the apex court and requested the High Court to immediately interfere in the issue by invoking its jurisdiction under Article 226, since the lives of citizens are at stake.

The counsel appearing for the State Election Commission, S. Siva Shanmugam, informed the court that SEC will have to declare urban local body elections on or before 26th January. About the safety of citizens, the counsel reiterated that they had issued a circular dated 10th January, 2021 wherein a detailed protocol has been laid down that must be observed from the day of notifying the polls till the declaration of results. The said Covid Protocol was scrupulously followed in the completed rural local body elections too, he submitted.

Senior Counsel ARL Sundaresan also submitted that the elections that must be conducted as per Article 243 of the Constitution should not be read in isolation and Article 47 entrusts a duty on the state to take balancing measures for public health as well.

Case Title: Dr.M.Nakkeeran v. The State Election Commissioner & Ors.

Case No: WP/736/2022 (PIL)

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