The Andhra Pradesh government has asked the High Court to postpone the local body polls to be held in February, stating that the government machinery would be involved in the first phase of COVID-19 vaccine administration at the time. While the State Election Commissioner (SEC) N Ramesh Kumar had previously announced that the local body elections would be held in February 2021, the state government has challenged the decision in the High Court.
According to Deccan Chronicle, the state government pleader told the Andhra Pradesh High Court on Tuesday that government officials, including health and police department personnel, would be engaged in the first phase of COVID-19 vaccine administration in the months of January and February. The state government also expressed concern that a second wave of COVID-19 infections is likely to occur from December to March in the state, making elections a risk for public health, according to The New Indian Express.
The government’s counsel argued that police personnel will have to be deployed for security, for vaccine storage and transport, and that holding elections at the time would be a problem as revenue and health officials would also need to be deployed for vaccine administration work. He informed the court that the Union government has issued guidelines to states regarding the first phase of COVID-19 vaccine distribution, and that the steering committee headed by the Chief Secretary, and district-level task forces headed by District Collectors, will be involved in the vaccine administration program.
As per the Union government’s guidelines, in the first phase, the COVID-19 vaccine will be offered to healthcare workers, frontline workers and to persons above 50 years of age. In each session per day, 100-200 persons will be vaccinated.
Earlier this month, during the winter session of the Andhra Pradesh Assembly, a resolution was passed by the Assembly opposing the conduct of elections to local bodies. Following this, SEC Ramesh Kumar wrote to Governor Biswabhusan Harichandan, saying the resolution was against the spirit of the Constitution as the Election Commission was an autonomous institution.
The court has posted the matter to December 18, and the State Election Commission has been asked to file a counter affidavit in the matter.