Direct EC to hold Bihar polls till state is declared COVID-19, flood-free: Petition in SC

New Delhi: A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking directions for the Election Commission `to refrain from holding upcoming elections in Bihar till the State is declared COVID-19 and flood-free`.

The plea, which was filed by Rajesh Kumar Jaiswal, resident of Bihar, said the Election Commission is convinced that free and fair elections can be held even though the public meetings are banned and it is extremely hazardous for the candidates to contest or indulge in election propaganda in the current circumstances.

The petition filed through advocate Shantanu Sagar stated that the petitioner had filed a representation to the Election Commission on July 18 requesting it to postpone the Bihar election for the safety of the people.

On August 11, the Chief Election Commissioner had announced that the Bihar election will be held as per schedule ignoring the fact that Bihar is grappling under the COVID-19 and floods.

“By deciding to hold elections during the pandemic, the Election Commission of India has ignored the population of states like Bihar whereby the population is above 9.9 crores and it can`t adopt targeted measures for older voters who are more vulnerable to COVID-19. Options like proxy voters under a well established legal framework, postal voting, and mobile ballot boxes can not be explored and implemented in such a short span of time,” the plea stated.

Claiming that Bihar has over one lakh of COVID-19 cases, the plea said holding elections will only spread the virus further.

The plea sought that Election Commission be directed not to recommend to Bihar to publish notification of election in official gazette till the competent authority declares Bihar as COVID-19 and flood free. It further sought that the Bihar government be directed to ensure proper facilities to its residents without focusing on the upcoming elections.

Assembly elections in Bihar are due in October-November and the tenure of the current Assembly is scheduled to end on November 29.

The Election Commission has not yet taken a final call on poll dates in Bihar due to coronavirus and sought suggestions from political parties.

On Friday, the Election Commission has approved broad guidelines for the conduct of general elections and bypolls during COVID-19 period under which candidates will have the option to fill the nomination form and affidavit and deposit security amount online and five persons including candidate will be allowed for the door-to-door campaign.

The revised norms issued ahead of assembly polls in Bihar which may be held later this year.

The norms stated that hand gloves shall be provided to all the electors for signing on the voter register and pressing the button of EVM for voting.Voters will be given gloves before they head to the EVM machines. There shall be maximum 1000 electors instead of 1500 electors at a polling station.

The commission has also revised the norms of the number of persons accompanying the candidate and number of vehicles at the time of nomination.