The Madras High Court on Tuesday, January 25, allowed the elections to urban local bodies in Tamil Nadu to be held as per schedule, and said that it will monitor the conduct of the polls in the state. Holding that the elections cannot be ordered to be deferred, the first bench dismissed the PIL petitions on the issue.
The bench of Acting Chief Justice MN Bhandari and Justice P D Audikesavalu, which rejected the plea, said the State government and the Tamil Nadu State Election Commission can go ahead with the polls after strictly observing all COVID-19 protocols and guidelines issued by the central government. The High Court would also closely monitor the conduct of the elections, the bench said.
The parties, more particularly, the State government, are at liberty to move the Supreme Court with a plea to grant more time to hold the elections, if they desire so, the bench said, as it was the Apex Court which had stipulated the time limit. The SC had stipulated that the Tamil Nadu government should announce the election schedule for the urban local bodies in four months, which comes to an end on January 27.
The PILs from Dr M Nakkeeran, former Joint Director of the Health department and another person, sought the court to postpone the polls in view of the spurt in COVID-19 cases due to the third wave.
The petitioners had contended the Tamil Nadu State election Commission (TNSEC) was not taking stock of the ground reality on the surging Covid infections. It had not even reviewed the number of containment zones in the places where the polls were proposed to be held. The safety of the citizens would be at stake if the polls were conducted and no harm would be caused if it was postponed beyond two months, when the situation eased or improved.
When the Supreme Court had set the deadline for holding the polls, the pandemic situation then was different. In the interest of public health and safety, the polls should be deferred, they added.
TNSEC counsel had earlier submitted that the poll notification ought to be issued by January 27 as per the orders of the Supreme Court. All precautionary measures and standard operating procedures that were in place following issuance of a notification earlier for holding the elections to the local bodies in rural areas, would be strictly enforced now too, he had added.