The Madras High Court has observed that it is the obligation of the authorities to provide for the basic amenities and make all necessary required arrangements. In a particular place, if certain basic amenities and/or security arrangements are not made, the person certainly has the right to make a grievance about it.
The Division Bench of Chief Justice Sanjay V. Gangapurwala and Justice D. Bharatha Chakravarthy disposed of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed seeking direction to the respondents not to employ women above fifty years of age in election works relating to Legislative Assembly, Parliament and Local Body and to provide safety, security and basic amenities to the women employed, who are all less than fifty years of age.
The counsel for the petitioner submits that the petitioner was earlier employed with the Municipal Corporation and attended election duty during the Covid time. She is aware of the difficulties faced in the election duty. The counsel submits that women above the age of fifty years suffer from various ailments such as Diabetes, Hyper Tension and other Co-morbidities. Difficulties are faced in reaching polling booths in remote areas, which lack security and medical facilities.
The plight of such women employed, who are above fifty years of age, has to be considered by the respondent authorities. It is further submitted that basic amenities are required to be provided and the same are not available.
“The petitioner is not required for election duty, as the petitioner is a practising advocate. The petition is not filed by the one who is required to attend election duty or is aged fifty years and above. The petitioner, in such case, certainly ought not to have filed the present petition”, the Bench said.
Be that as it may, under Article 324 of the Constitution of India, the superintendence, direction and control of the preparation of the electoral rolls for, and the conduct of all elections are vested with the Election Commission. The directions issued by the Election Commission have statutory force. Directions issued by the Election Commission are not the subject matter of challenge in the present petition. Policy is also framed for requisition of staff of Persons with Disabilities (PwD) and women, so also exemptions have been granted to certain categories of persons. The same can be enlisted as under:
“9.Requisition of staff in category of PwDs and women:
9.1. Considering the nature of duty and to avoid causing hardship to such employees, the Commission is of the view that the employees under PwD category “persons with benchmark disability” as defined under Section 2(r) of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 should not be deployed on election duty unless required for deployment at PwDmanaged Polling Stations.
9.2 However, if any such person is required to be used on election duty, prior approval of the General Observer may be obtained giving full details and justification. The DEO and the RO shall make personal efforts to identify such individuals and appreciate their nature of disabilities and discuss their limitations. Appropriate facilities and assistance should be provided, if deployed for election duty.
9.3 It shall be ensured that they should invariably be posted in proximity to their residence. If any PwD is inadvertently deputed to any difficult location, the Returning Officer should be able to make necessary changes in deployment manually in consultation with the General Observer.
9.4 All such women personnel who are in advance stage of pregnancy (whether are on maternity leave or not) or on medical advice being unfit for any rigorous or hazardous work or lactating women shall be exempted from being requisitioned for election duty.
9.5 Further, every woman employee called for election duty shall be informed, in advance, of arrangements of transport and appropriate stay at the place of duty with basic amenities and unless such arrangement is made and prior information in this behalf is given to such woman employee, she shall not be called to perform any election duty at any such place where the above arrangements are not available.”
In the absence of challenge to the above, the petition cannot be entertained , held by the High Court.
“It is the obligation of the authorities to provide for the basic amenities and make all necessary required arrangements. In a particular place, if certain basic amenities and/or security arrangements are not made, the person certainly has the right to make a grievance about it.
At the first instance, it would be the duty of the authorities to provide for all the basic amenities. The policy itself further states that the arrangements of transport and appropriate stay at the place of duty with basic amenities shall be made and unless such arrangements are made and prior information is given to such a woman employee, she shall not be called to perform election duty at any such place, where the above arrangements are not available. The policy is in place. In case the policy is violated, then the aggrieved person can certainly make a grievance about the same”, the order reads.