HC stays elections to mandal, zilla parishad territorial constituencies

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Amaravati, Apr 6 (PTI): The Andhra Pradesh High Court on Tuesday stayed the elections to mandal and zilla parishad territorial constituencies, slated for April 8.

Justice U Durga Prasad granted an interim stay on petitions filed by the BJP and the Jana Sena, challenging the April 1 notification of the State Election Commission, resuming the parishad election process that was deferred in March 2020.

The petitioners contended that the SEC issued the fresh notification in haste, in clear violation of the Supreme Court verdict that set a four-week time line for enforcement of the model code of conduct ahead of the polls.

'Immediately upon assuming charge as the State Election Commissioner, Nilam Sawhney issued the notification for resumption of the parishad election process in total disregard to the Supreme Court order,' the petitioners said.

The SEC and the state government countered the argument, claiming that there was no clarity in the Apex Court's order on the enforcement of the model code of conduct.

Upon hearing both sides, the Judge granted an interim stay on the election process.

The main opposition Telugu Desam announced it was boycotting the parishad elections because they were being conducted in an 'undemocratic manner.' TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu, in a statement on Tuesday, said the High Court order granting an interim stay was a vindication of his partys decision to boycott the elections that were sought to be held in violation of the Supreme Court orders.

The elections to mandal and zilla parishad territorial constituencies, the second and the third tiers of the Panchayat Raj Institutions, were first notified in March 2020.

They were postponed on March 15, 2020 following the spurt in coronavirus cases.

Only the polling and vote counting part of the election process remained pending and the state government was keen on getting it completed quickly.

The previous State Election Commissioner N Ramesh Kumar, who demitted office on March 31, declined to rush through the process in view of the Supreme Court judgement on the model code of conduct.

The incumbent Sawhney, however, issued the notification just hours after assuming charge on April 1 without the customary meeting with all political parties, which she had called on April 2.

According to the notification, the polling was scheduled for April 8 and counting of votes on the 10th.

Political allies BJP and Jana Sena, which had been demanding that the entire poll process for MPTCs and ZPTCs be cancelled and conducted afresh from the start in view of the 'gross irregularities' last year, immediately challenged the SECs April 1 notification in the High Court.

As just a day is now left before the (originally) scheduled polling date, the state government is set to challenge the single judges order before a Division Bench of the High Court, official sources said. PTI DBV APR ADMINISTRATOR APR ADMINISTRATOR