COVID-19:AP local body polls put off indefinitely

Amaravati, May 6 (PTI) The Andhra Pradesh State Election Commission issued a notification on Wednesday putting off the elections to rural and urban local bodies indefinitely in view of the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown and also a judgment of the High Court.

State Election Commissioner Justice (retired) V Kanagaraj said after careful consideration of the judgments and also other relevant factors, the SEC decided to issue orders 'withholding the election process of MPTCs/ZPTCs and Urban Local Bodies until further orders.' This was done as the lockdown guidelines which prohibit public gatherings remain in force and process of 'removal of colours' on panchayat buildings is yet to be completed by the government as per the directions of the High Court.

On March 15, the then State Election Commissioner N Ramesh Kumar issued a notification putting off the elections 'for a period of six weeks or till the threat of COVID-19 recedes, whichever is earlier.' The Supreme Court upheld the SEC's decision when the state government challenged it.

On April 20, the High Court issued an order directing that the panchayat elections be conducted only after the government replaced the colours (representing those of the ruling YSR Congress flag) on the government buildings.

The court gave three weeks time, after the lockdown is lifted, to complete the task.

'The elections to panchayats, which is suspended, shall commence only after complying with the above condition and an affidavit in this regard is filed by the Panchayat secretary and the Chief Secretary before the Registrar (Judicial) of this court.

The State Election Commission is directed that until the order passed by this court has been complied with, the election notification for the local bodies shall not be issued because conducting free and fair elections is its prime function,' the High Court said in its judgment.

Citing this, and also the Union Ministry of Home Affairs May 1 order on the lockdown, Justice (retired) Kanagaraj issued the fresh notification stalling the election process 'until further orders.' 'The State Election Commission will review the situation from time to time in consultation with the state government and, when the situation conducive for conduct of elections is restored, the paused election process will be resumed from the stage where it was stopped in order to complete it, strictly complying with the directions of the Supreme Court and the High Court,' the State Election Commissioner said.PTI DBV BN WELCOME BN WELCOME