A bench of the Telangana High Court, comprising Chief Justice Hima Kohli and Justice B Vijaysen Reddy, today admonished the State Election Commission (SEC) for the body's "unsatisfactory reply" on concerns about its decision to hold municipal elections on April 30 despite the rising Covid-19 cases in the state.
Addressing the SEC while dealing with petitions regarding the Covid-19 crisis, the bench pointed out that its report did not contain all the necessary clarifications that were being sought by the court and petitioners.
(At a previous hearing, the SEC had been ordered to issue SOPs which would be followed during the polling of votes for the April 30 election as well as during the subsequent counting process in the form of an affidavit be filed by the body at
the next hearing. The affidavit, the HC said, would have to include the steps taken to ensure social distancing and other Covid-19 norms during the elections.)
The bench also asked the body whether it did not have the power to even postpone the elections in the face of the raging second wave, and reprimanded the state government too for granting permission for the organisation of the elections.
"Should elections be held even during natural calamities like earthquakes, and in situations of conflict? Are the SEC officials even monitoring the pandemic situation at the field level across the poll-bound regions? The body should reflect on what the rush to hold the ULB elections was. The elections tomorrow may well turn into super-spreaders of the pandemic," it added.
To this, the SEC responded that it had decided to move forward with the elections on the basis of the opinion of the state government.
The bench then ordered the election body to "file an affidavit by tomorrow furnishing inter alia the plan of action for managing crowding of voters at polling booths at the premises where counting shall take place and on the declaration of the results".
During the hearing, the court also grilled the state government about various issues being faced by the public, and about its plans of imposing a total lockdown in the state by Friday, when the current night curfew