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SC allows physical rallies in Madhya Pradesh for Assembly bypolls

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The Supreme Court on Monday stayed an order of the Madhya Pradesh High Court that restricted physical election rallies in nine districts of Madhya Pradesh due to the coronavirus pandemic. The SC said that physical election rallies can be held for now.

Notably, bye-election for 28 Assembly seats in Madhya Pradesh is scheduled next month and the high court’s order had put the political parties in a fix. The Election Commission (EC) and Madhya Pradesh energy minister Pradyuman Singh Tomar had approached the Supreme Court against the high court order.

What did Supreme Court say?

A Supreme Court bench headed by Justice AM Khanwilkar, on Monday, said that it is the Election Commission that needs to look into these issues.

The bench said: “You take initiative, set right the situation. If there is any illegality going on, it is for you to ask the authority to take action. We will say whatever illegality has been flagged by the high court. You will take cognizance of that. You must take responsibility.”

The Supreme Court also pulled up political parties and remarked that they have created a situation that compelled the high court to intervene. “Had political parties maintained the protocol, this situation would not have arisen,” the apex court said.

Arguments of EC

The Election Commission has argued that the order of the high court interferes with the poll process and conduct of elections that falls in the domain of the election body.

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It has also contended that the high court order will derail the poll process and the restrictions imposed by it will affect the level playing field for candidates.

What did Madhya Pradesh CM say?

Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan too had expressed his unhappiness over the high court’s order. He had said: “We respect the high court and its decision. But regarding this decision, we will go to the Supreme Court, because it is like having two laws in a single land.”

“In some parts of Madhya Pradesh, physical political rallies are allowed. It is not allowed in another part. Political rallies are being held in Bihar, but it is not allowed in a part of Madhya Pradesh. So, we will seek justice from the Supreme Court,” the chief minister had added.

What did HC say?

A Gwalior bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court had on October 21 directed district magistrates not to give permission to any candidate or political party for public gatherings unless they can prove that a virtual election campaign is not possible.

The bench also ordered that FIRs be filed against Union minister Narendra Singh Tomar and former Chief Minister Kamal Nath. The bench also directed the administration for strict restrictions on political rallies.

 

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