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BJP Leader Moves Supreme Court Challenging Madhya Pradesh High Court Order Restraining Physical Poll Campaigns

Sanya Talwar
24 Oct 2020 4:51 AM GMT
BJP Leader Moves Supreme Court Challenging Madhya Pradesh High Court Order Restraining Physical Poll Campaigns
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A plea challenging the order of Madhya Pradesh High Court which directed conduct of poll campaigns virtually, without physical gathering has been filed before Supreme Court.

BJP candidate Pradyumn Singh Tomar, contesting bye-elections from Gwalior, has moved the top court through Advocate Astha Sharma, contending that the impugned interim order has violated his right to conduct election campaign through physical gatherings as permitted by the Election Commission; Central Government and State of Madhya Pradesh.

On October 20, Madhya Pradesh High Court had observed that the elections shall be conducted by virtual mode and not by physical gatherings, thereby restraining all District Magistrates from granting permissions to conduct physical campaigns unless the District Magistrate is satisfied that conduct of virtual election campaign is not possible.

A division bench of Justices Sheel Nagu and Rajeev Kumar Shrivastava further directed that the holding of physical campaign by the political party where the permission is granted by the District Magistrate and approved by the Election Commission, shall take place only after the political party deposits the money with District Magistrate which is sufficient to purchase double the number of masks and sanitizers required for protecting the number of persons expected in the gathering.

The said order was passed in a PIL averring that Covid Cases were on the rise due to the political parties organising campaigns in person& that State authorities were not taking any action against such political parties and their leaders.

The petitioner has said that the High Court on October 12, directed the State authorities of districts of Gwalior and Datia to register FIRs where the COVID-19 protocols were breached but State authorities have not registered FIR against sitting Union Minister Narendra Singh Tomar and Kamal Nath, former Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh for alleged violation of Coivd-19 protocol.

Stating that the HC's order is completely erroneous and sans jurisdiction, Tomar avers that the ECI under Article 324 of Constitution of India has issued its Covid-19 Guidelines dated September 29, permitting "physical gatherings" for election campaigns subject to specified restrictions and that the Central Government has permitted "physical gatherings" in assemblies where elections are being held, subject to specified restrictions.

"The Hon'ble High Court has no jurisdiction to substitute the Guidelines issued by the Election Commission; Central Government and the State Government. The superintendence, direction and control over the conduct of elections in exclusively within the domain of the Election Commission as held in Mohinder Singh Gill vs. The Chief Election Commissioner, (1978) 1 SCC 405 and could not have been substituted by the Hon'ble High Court. The balance of convenience is in favour of the Petitioner and against the Respondents. The Petitioner would be subject to irreparable injury if the impugned interim order is not stayed by this Hon'ble Court"

- Excerpt of Plea

The order of the MP High Court is further challenged on the ground that the State of Madhya Pradesh also permitted "public gatherings" in assemblies where elections are being held, subject to specified restrictions.

In this context, the SLP states,

"In the PIL filed by the Petitioner, there is no challenge to either the Covid-19 Guidelines dated 29.09.2020 issued by the Election Commission or the orders dated 08.10.2020 passed by the Central Government and the State of Madhya Pradesh respectively..... The restraint on District Magistrates in issuing permission for public gathering and the condition to deposit double the money for masks and sanitizers is completely without jurisdiction"

It is further contended that since Tomar was not a party before the Madhya Pradesh High Court in which the impugned order was passed (in the case titled Ashish Pratap Singh v. State of MP & Ors.), violated the Petitioner's right to conduct election campaign through physical gatherings as permitted by the Election Commission; Central Government and State of Madhya Pradesh.


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