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SC rejects plea seeking counting of votes for civic body polls in Gujarat together

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Clearing the way for the declaration of results of the elections for the six municipal corporations in Gujarat, the Supreme Court on Monday rejected a petition seeking counting of votes on the same date for two different phases of Gujarat civic polls.

Following the apex court’s verdict, the counting of votes for two different phases of the civic polls will be carried out on two different dates—February 23 for six municipal corporations and March 2 for 81 municipalities, 31 district panchayats and 231 taluka panchayats.

Notably, the Gujarat High Court had rejected the same petition on Friday after which the petitioners approached the Supreme Court. However, they failed to get any relief from the top court as well. The Supreme Court also said that the civic elections will be held as per the schedule already declared by the State Election Commission.

What petitioners argued

The petitioners had earlier contended before the high court that if the results of the six municipal corporations are declared on February 23 before the second phase of civic polls, it will influence the decision of the voters in the second phase. Counsel for the petitioners had contended that the move would affect the concept of free and fair elections.

What SEC said

Counsel for the State Election Commission (SEC) and senior advocate Mihir Joshi had contended before the high court that the petition is not maintainable in view of the specific bar to interference by courts in electoral matters as contained in the Indian Constitution. He had argued that the petition is based on “fear of perception” of the petitioners, which is “vague and without basis”.

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Joshi also pointed that a similar petition seeking similar reliefs was filed before the high court in 2008. However, a coordinate bench of the court declined to interfere in the matter and had rejected it.

The SEC in an affidavit had earlier stated before the high court that it is an autonomous constitutional body and if vote counting for two different phases of elections is to be done on two separate dates, it doesn’t violate anyone’s constitutional right.

What Gujarat HC said

The division bench of Justice JB Pardiwala and Justice Ilesh Vora in its verdict said: “It appears that the three writ-applicants are affiliated to one particular political party and what is troubling their mind is that if one particular political party gets into power in the six Municipal Corporations, then the entire rural voting pattern may get affected.”

“People hailing from poor and lower strata of society may be influenced by the fact that a particular political party has regained power in all the six Municipal Corporations or in most of the Corporations and, therefore, that particular political party is quite a popular party and, therefore, let us all vote for the candidates of that particular political party.”

The bench remarked: “The voting behaviour in our country is something which is very complex and unpredictable. Several social factors may be involved in our country that influences the voting behaviour of the voters. This may include factors such as the community, caste, religion, money, language, ideology, etc, which are utilised by the political parties in influencing the election results.”

“How does one expect the Chief Election Commissioner to control the thought process or the mind of the voters?” the court said, while rejecting the petition saying that no case is made out by the petitioners for grant of any relief.

 

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