The Supreme Court Monday stayed the October 20 Madhya Pradesh High Court order on mode and manner of campaigning for the upcoming bye-elections, asking political parties to conduct their campaign virtually instead of holding physical rallies due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The apex court also asked the Election Commission of India (ECI) to take cognisance of all issues raised in petitions before the High Court and take an appropriate decision in regard to the political rallies as per law and keeping in mind COVID-19 guidelines.
A bench headed by Justice A M Khanwilkar was hearing pleas of the ECI and Madhya Pradesh Energy minister Pradyuman Singh Tomar challenging the high court’s order. Tomar, contesting from Gwalior, had contended that the October 20 order violates the right to organise election campaigns through physical gatherings as permitted bye-election rules and sought a stay on it.
The Election Commission has assailed the HC order, saying the conduct and management of elections are overseen by it under the Constitution and Article 329 of the Constitution puts an express bar on judicial interference in midst of electoral process.
The bench also asked senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Tomar, to make a representation to the poll body for loss of time in electioneering due to HC’s order.
The high court had asked District Magistrates not to grant permission for physical congregations for election campaigns unless it can be proved that conduct of a virtual campaign is not possible, subject to EC approval.
In its order, the High Court had said: “In a contest/clash between right to campaigning and right to health and life, it is obvious that the right to health and life takes precedence. Right to health and life is comparatively more exalted, sacred and precious right when compared with the right to canvassing & campaigning. Thus, the right of candidate to campaign has to yield to the right to health and life of the electorate.”
The bypolls to 28 seats are scheduled for November 3.
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