Updated: February 19, 2021 2:47:08 am
A division bench of the Gujarat High Court, in a petition moved by Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) employees challenging orders passed by 16 district returning officers calling the employees on local body poll duties, concluded hearing on the limited aspect of interim relief on Thursday and reserved its order on the same on Friday.
The petitioner-organisation, which has an estimated 3,000 employees in the state as per LIC’s advocate Maulik Shelat, has submitted that State Election Commission (SEC) has no power either under the Constitution or under the local body election rules to requisition staff of LIC.
Orders under challenge include those issued by returning officers-election officers of Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Bhavnagar, Surat, Rajkot, Viramgam, Anand, Palanpur, Mehsana, Porbandar, Sanand, Petlad, Kheda, Navsari, Junagadh and Jamnagar.
In 2012, for Assembly elections in Gujarat, LIC employees were requisitioned for election duty by the chief electoral officer, which too was challenged before the Gujarat HC. It was clarified at that point that the amended section 159 of the Representation of Peoples’ Act (RPA), which the Assembly polls are governed by, stipulates that staff of certain authorities to be made available for election work.
Shelat said, “For local polls, RPA would not apply and orders are issued by the collector’s office governed by local body election rules…LIC is a statutory corporation, formed under the LIC Act .”
The SEC and district collectors’ offices justified the orders on the grounds that due to Covid-19 pandemic there is a shortage of staff. It was also submitted by the respondents that the power available to the election commission in this regard, is available to the returning/election officer.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines