The Gujarat High Court on
Monday dismissed as premature a PIL seeking postponement of by-elections to eight assembly seats in Gujarat, schedule for which is yet to be announced, in view of the coronavirus pandemic.
The PIL, filed by social worker Farsu Goklani, sought postponement of the by-elections to the eight seats for which the Election Commission (EC) is yet to announce the date.
Goklani argued that around 19 lakh registered voters of these eight constituencies face the risk of contracting COVID-19 if elections are held as they will have to visit polling booths to exercise their franchise.
A division bench of Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice JB Pariwala dismissed the PIL as premature.
The EC, in its reply to the PIL, had sought dismissal of the petition on grounds that "its decision cannot be preempted."
The poll panel had told the court it always takes into consideration the prevailing situation before announcement of elections.
The EC had said it is still assessing the situation, including the pandemic, and has so far not announced dates for by-elections in Gujarat as well as in other states.
"The Election Commission will take appropriate decision as whether to announce elections at an appropriate time or if required to defer holding of elections after following due procedure as prescribed in law," Joint Chief Electoral Officer, Gujarat, Ajay Bhatt, had said in his reply.
The broad guidelines issued recently by the EC to conduct elections during the pandemic was also challenged through a draft amendment to the same PIL.
The amended PIL had challenged the guidelines on the basis that they were in "complete contravention" of a July 29 circular issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs which strictly prohibits "social/political/sports/entertainment/academic/ cultural/religious functions and other large congregations".
Bypolls are to be held in Gujarat for eight seats that fell vacant in March and June following the resignation of sitting Congress MLAs.
These seats are Dhari, Abdasa, Limbdi, Gadhda, Dang, Karjan, Morbi and Kaprada.
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