28 Aug 2020: Coronavirus not valid reason to defer Bihar polls: Supreme Court
A three-judge bench, headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan, also said the plea was premature as the Election Commission is yet to issue a notification for polls.
Here are more details.
What happened: Seek answers from EC: Petitioner told SC
The petitioner Avinash Thakur, who was represented by lawyer Neeraj Shekhar, wanted the top court to seek a report from EC on the prevailing conditions in Bihar and ask whether holding polls would be feasible.
"The EC will take care of every situation. They must be considering everything. This kind of petition we cannot entertain under Article 32," replied the bench.
Statement: SC "can't tell CEC what to do"
When the petitioner asked for permission to move the case to EC, SC said he was well within his rights to do, even now.
Leaving all decisions on the top polling body, the bench, also including Justices RS Reddy and MR Shah, said, "This court cannot tell the Chief Election Commissioner what to do. He (CEC) will consider everything."
Eventually, no verdict was passed.
Fact: The bench concluded COVID-19 is not a valid reason
"No notification has been issued. How can we ask the Election Commission to not hold elections? COVID-19 is not a valid reason for the postponement of the election," the bench said, expressing confidence in Election Commission that it will consider all factors.
Polls: Earlier, EC asked parties to submit suggestions for polls
For some time now, EC has been deliberating how to conduct Bihar polls, the first large-scale electoral exercise since the coronavirus outbreak.
It asked stakeholders to submit suggestions — BJP, which is in power with JD(U) and other allies, asked to increase the limit in virtual campaigning.
Some parties suggested continuing with physical rallies as rural areas won't have access to the internet.
Guidelines: Masks mandatory, coronavirus patients can vote in last hour: EC
Last Friday, EC released broad guidelines for polls, saying that as opposed to 1,500 voters earlier, only 1,000 would be let inside booths this time.
EC said social distancing must be maintained during events and a gap should be maintained between vehicles during the roadshow.
Those displaying high-temperature during thermal screening would vote during the last hour, EC said, adding that masks and gloves are mandatory.
Assembly polls: Nitish Kumar is eyeing another term. Will he win?
Moreover, to avoid crowding, the number of polling booths was increased to 1.06 lakh, with over 33,000 auxiliary booths being added.
The dates for elections of 243 Assembly seats could be revealed by mid-September.
Notably, incumbent Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is eyeing another term but residents seem unimpressed with the way he handled coronavirus crisis. The question is — Can he win again?