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Rajya Sabha Polls Will Be Held As Per Statutory Schedule; Will Decide Dates Shortly : ECI Tells Kerala High Court

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
29 March 2021 9:48 AM GMT
Rajya Sabha Polls Will Be Held As Per Statutory Schedule; Will Decide Dates Shortly : ECI Tells Kerala High Court
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The election process for the three Rajya Sabha seats from Kerala, which will become vacant on April 21 on account of the retirement of the incumbents, will be done as per the statutory schedule and the elections dates will be decided shorty, the Election Commission of India t the Kerala High Court on Monday."We will decide the dates shortly, within one or two days", the ECI's standing...

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The election process for the three Rajya Sabha seats from Kerala, which will become vacant on April 21 on account of the retirement of the incumbents, will be done as per the statutory schedule and the elections dates will be decided shorty, the Election Commission of India t the Kerala High Court on Monday.

"We will decide the dates shortly, within one or two days", the ECI's standing counsel Advocate Deepu Lal Mohan told the High Court.

The submission was made in response to two petitions filed challenging the decision of the Election Commission of India to defer the elections to three Rajya Sabha seats from the initially proposed date of April 12.

The Court has asked the ECI to file a written statement regarding this and posted the case tomorrow.

A single bench of Justice P V Asha was considering the writ petitions filed by the Secretary of the Kerala Legislative Assembly and S Sharma, CPI(M) MLA.

Senior Advocate CS Vaidyanathan, appearing for the Assembly Secretary, submitted that the Election Commission had initially announced that the elections for the three seats will be held on April 12, ahead of the retirement of the members on April 21.

Later, on March 24, the ECI informed through a press release that the elections have been deferred after a communication has been received from the Union Ministry of Law and Justice.

The senior counsel said that the Ministry of Law and Justice has no right to interfere with the decision taken by the Election Commission; it is the independent function conferred on the Commission by the Constitution.

"What is the locus of law and ministry? What is the reference received by the Commission? There is no transparency, no disclosure, as to what the objection was", Vaidyanathan submitted.

He emphasized that the Election Commission's decision to keep the elections in abeyance was in the "teeth of the constitutional requirement that the elections should be done before the seats fall vacant".

Vaidyanathan further submitted that the electoral college for the Rajya Sabha polls in the state assembly. As on date, there is a state assembly in existence. The period of the current assembly is till June 2 as per Article 174 of the Constitution, as its first session was held on June 2, 2016.

Citing various Supreme Court precedents, Vaidyanathan submitted that judicial interference is possible to advance and smoothen the conduct of elections. The petitioners are not seeking to obstruct elections but to conduct it as per the Constitutional mandate.

The issue pertains to the Rajya Sabha seats of Indian Union Muslim League's Abdul Vahab,  CPI(M)'s KK Ragesh, the Congress's Vayalar Ravi, who are retiring on April 21.

"During the term of the three members, the MLAs have a right to vote, when the assembly is live", Vaidyanthan submitted. As regard the locus of the Assembly Secretary to file the writ petition, he referred to Article 187 of the Constitution, which speaks of the Secretariat of the State Legislature, and said that the Secretary acts as the voice of the members.

Saying that 19 days are required for the election process, Vaidyanathan urged the High Court to direct the poll body to immediately notify the election dates so that the polls can be done before the retirement of the three incumbent members.

Senior Advocate NN Suganapalan, appearing for S Sharma MLA, submitted that his client was personally aggrieved as his right to vote was affected. He submitted that the petitioner was seeking the continuance of election process by removing the obstruction created by the Law Ministry. He emphasized that the ECI has not disclosed any reasons for deferring the polls.

Election Commission's stand

Advocate Deepu Lal Mohan, the standing counsel of the Election Commission of India, told the bench that the notification for the polls in terms of Section 12 of the Representation of Peoples Act is yet to be published. What was announced on March 17 by the ECI through a press release was only the proposed dates for elections, and it cannot be regarded as the election notification.

He said that the ECI on March 26 issued a communication clarifying that the election schedule will be completed within the statutory limit, and a decision in this regard will be taken within one or two days.

He called the writ petitions "pre-mature" as the date of retirement is yet to happen, and said that petitioners' apprehensions are unfounded. It is not as if the Election Commission has cancelled the elections; it is yet to notify the election dates, the Standing Counsel added.

"The EC is fully conscious of the statutory scheme, election will be conducted. Submissions on Law Ministry's Reference are misguided, EC's decisions are not influenced by anything", he added.

The Court will consider the petitions next tomorrow at 4 PM.

 



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