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Supreme Court stays high court order that restricted poll campaigns to just virtual mode, slams political parties for violating Covid-19 protocols

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New Delhi (ILNS): The Supreme Court today stayed the interim order passed by High Court of Madhya Pradesh which had restrained physical gathering by political parties while campaigning for the assembly by-polls. The high court had in its order allowed political parties to conduct the election campaign by virtual mode only.

The bench of Justices A. M. Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjiv Khanna was hearing two separate pleas filed by the Election Commission of India (ECI) and BJP leader Pradyumn Singh Tomar, challenging the order of the Madhya Pradesh High Court. Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi appeared on behalf of Tomar and said: “ECI should consider that we have lost 6 days of campaigning.  ECI should consider whether we should get more time to campaign. Three hours a day must be added for campaigning.”

The Supreme Court pulled up the political parties for creating a situation that compelled the high court to intervene. “Had political parties maintained the protocol, this situation wouldn’t have arisen,” remarked the bench.

The bench told the EC: “Take charge, ensure you discharge your duties in a manner that’s in the best interest of everyone. The high court need not have interfered had you done your job better.” While pointing out as to who is responsible, the Supreme Court held: “If the political parties had acted according to the mandate of the Covid protocols, this situation would not have happened. You forced the HC to pass such orders and are now coming here with this petition.”

The apex court slammed the political parties for violating Covid-19 protocols during the campaign for by-election in Madhya Pradesh and asked the political parties to leave it to ECI to consider action over violations. Besides, the Supreme Court also refused the plea by BJP leader Pradyumn Tomar to extend the campaigning time.

The Court will hear the matter after 6 weeks.

ECI lawyer Ramesh Dwivedi maintained that: “We had issued guidelines. Please appreciate the requirements of balancing the election with the campaigning.”

On this, the bench said: “It’s the EC which needs to go into these issues. You take initiative, set right the situation. If there is any illegality going on it’s for you to ask the authority to take action. We will say whatever illegality has been flagged by HC you will take cognizance of that. You must take responsibility. We will stay the HC Judgment and leave it to ECI to take action on all allegations and grievances.”

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