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The Supreme Court on Thursday has refused to stay Gujarat Rajya Sabha polls on a petition seeking quashing of notification dated 17.06.2020 issued by the Election Commission directing polling through postal ballot in conduct of biennial elections to Rajya Sabha. The matter has been listed for next hearing after 4 weeks.

The bench comprising Chief Justice SA Bobde, Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice AS Bopanna was hearing a petition filed by Congress leader Paresh Dhanani who submitted that by issuing such Notification a day before the date of polls the Election Commission has completely violated the letter and spirit of rule 39AA of the Conduct of Election Rules 1961 whereby the Elector is required to show his/ her ballot paper to the Agent of its political party before such ballot paper is inserted in the ballot box.

The petitioner further submitted that the Election Commission in its Handbook for returning officers for Rajya Sabha Elections, 2016 Edition has categorically directed that in rare circumstances polling can be done by postal ballots subject to the condition that a notification under Rule 68 of 1961 rules is made before the last date of withdrawal of nominations. However, in the present case such notification under Rule 68 was not issued by the commission before the impugned notification.

The petitioner further contented that the Commission completely overlooked the willingness or consent of the Electors in polling by way of Postal Ballots.

Further it has been alleged that the notification completely nullifies the practice of verifying the vote cast by an Elector of a Political party by an authorized agent of the party as prescribed in proviso to Rule 42 of the 1961 Rules.

The petitioner has also contended that the notification by prescribing postal ballots for certain Electors will increase the possibility of deliberate admission of Electors to hospitals and thereby bypass the rigors of disqualification by cross voting when the provisions qua verification of votes by party’s authorized agents do not apply.

The petitioner in his petition urged the court to direct the Election Commission of India to ensure that the polling is done without any coercion or duress to the electors.

-India Legal Bureau

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