SC dismisses AP’s appeal against HC order allowing holding of Panchayat polls

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New Delhi, Jan 25 (PTI) In a setback to YS Jagan Mohan Reddy government, the Supreme Court on Monday dismissed its appeal against the High Court order upholding State Election Commission decision to hold gram Panchayat elections in the state saying, “We cannot be part of this ego battle”.

The State government has sought postponement of Panchayat polls due to the ongoing COVID-19 vaccination drive.

The top court observed that elections have been held in far more difficult conditions and successfully.

Referring to the State government and State Election Commission, the apex court said “ego problem between two authorities is leading to lawlessness”.

“We will not interfere with the decision of the State Election Commission” (to hold Panchayat polls) said a bench of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Aniruddha Bose and dismissed the appeal of the State government.

At the outset, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the State government, said that about five lakh police personnel are to be vaccinated and at this time how can polls be conducted.

He said even States like Goa have deferred the elections.

The bench said that every time there is an election, the State government approaches this court but it needs to be understood that the State Election Commission has to hold polls.

Rohatgi said that the State has also to see that the police and doctors are vaccinated and the Panchayat elections can be held from March 1 after the frontline workers are vaccinated by January 28.

He said that the high court should have found out whether elections and vaccination can happen together or not.

The bench said that the state government is supporting the order of a single judge which does not give any reason for suspending the schedule of elections.

It noted that staff associations have passed resolutions against State Election Commissioner Ramesh Kumar.

Rohatgi said that the state government has nothing to do with that person.

“Ego problem between the two authorities is leading to lawlessness. We cannot allow lawlessness to happen. How can resolutions be passed against the SEC N Ramesh Kumar? Elections have been held in far more difficult conditions and successfully,” the bench said.

The bench said that it is very easy to blame or judge anyone but States have conducted elections even during COVID-19 and even though there was a spike of cases in Kerala, it cannot be said that polls were the reason.

Panchayat elections were held in Kerala in December 2020.

“We cannot be a part of this ego battle. There are some political and administrative decisions. Some decisions have to be taken by the State Election Commission,” the bench said.

When some intervenors tried to intervene in the matter, the bench pulled them up and said, “Your behaviour is atrocious and undesirable”.

The top court said it will not interfere with the decision of the State Election Commission and dismissed the plea of the State government.

In its appeal, the state government has said that the High Court has completely erred in not considering that the SEC and its commissioner N Ramesh Kumar have taken the decision of conducting elections to local bodies without examining any relevant considerations.

“In fact, the Respondent (SEC and Kumar) is not qualified - having no medical expertise - to decide whether Elections ought to be conducted at a time when vaccination drive is on full swing and the effect of elections on (i) the vaccination drive and (ii) the spread of virus”, the appeal said, adding that Kumar has rejected the concerns raised by the State.

On January 21, the high court had given its nod to hold elections to gram Panchayats in four phases from February 5.

It had struck down the order of a single judge delivered on January 11 suspending the poll schedule announced by SEC N Ramesh Kumar while allowing the appeal.

On January 8, the SEC had announced the schedule for conduct of elections to gram panchayats in four phases beginning February 5, even as the state government contended that holding elections would not be possible in view of the coronavirus vaccination programme. Notification for the first phase is scheduled to be issued on January 23. PTI MNL ABA SJK MNL RKS RKS