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Andhra HC suspends order for holding of gram panchayat polls

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The Andhra Pradesh High Court on Monday suspended the order of the State Election Commission (SEC) to hold gram panchayat polls. Issuing an interim order, the court posted the case for next hearing on February 15.

A Single Bench of Justice M. Ganga Rao observed while hearing the lunch motion petition filed by the Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy government challenging the election schedule announced by the SEC  that the commission had not taken an objective decision in announcing the schedule and did not take into consideration the objections of the government.

The Court also held that the polls would constitute a hindrance to the mammoth vaccination programme undertaken by the Central government and states to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.

Appearing for the SEC, senior advocate N. Ashwani Kumar said the government had been seeking postponement of the elections on one pretext or the other, but the Court observed that the SEC order ought to be suspended in the interest of public health.

Advocate General S. Sriram argued that the SEC had unilaterally notified the election schedule for gram panchayat polls without taking into consideration the efforts of the state government to take up the Covid-19 vaccination programme. The AG also informed the court that the SEC failed to come up with any clarification on the earlier notification issued for conducting the MPTC and ZPTC polls as they too were halted to safeguard the health of the people.

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On Friday night, SEC Ramesh Kumar announced the election schedule for gram panchayats. As per the schedule, the first phase of elections for gram panchayats would be held on February 5, second phase on February 9, third phase on February 13 and the fourth phase on February 17. The notifications for these four phases of elections would be issued on January 23, January 27, January 31 and February 4 respectively.

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