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Poll panel can decide on holding GP elections: Karnataka High Court

By Express News Service

BENGALURU: The  Karnataka High Court on Friday said that the State Election Commission (SEC) can take a decision on holding elections to Gram Panchayats (GPs), in accordance with law. “We make it clear that though we have reserved judgment, the SEC can always take a decision in accordance with law,” a division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Ashok S Kinagi said.

The bench heard arguments of the State Government, SEC and senior counsel for Congress MLC K C Kondaiah and others, who filed a petition seeking directions to hold elections to GPs. The bench observed that the stand taken by the government to postpone elections is not correct, that too at a time elections are being held to the Bihar assembly.

Ultimately, it’s the SEC which has to take a call, the bench said. Advocate-General Prabhuling K Navadgi said, “The SEC should take us into confidence before taking a decision, but it has unilaterally come to a conclusion to hold elections. We are only concerned about the health of citizens in view of the pandemic”.

‘Gram Panchayat polls to be conducted in phases’

This apart, bypolls will have to be held for the Maski and Basavakalyan Assembly constituencies, and also the Belagavi Lok Sabha constituency. Prathap Gowda Patil, who was MLA from Maski constituency in Raichur district, was among the rebel Congress leaders who resigned and switched to BJP. As a case against him was pending before a court, the bypoll was not conducted in 2019. The then BJP candidate had challenged Patil’s election.

B Narayana Rao, the Congress MLA from Basavakalyan constituency, and Union Minister of State for Railways, Suresh Angadi, who represented Belagavi Lok Sabha seat, succumbed to Covid in September.
Speaking to The New Indian Express, Karnataka State Election Commissioner B Basavaraj said they are ready to conduct the Gram Panchayat election. “We are just waiting for the court order and we will do accordingly,’’ he said.

Basavaraju admitted that conducting elections is challenging in Covid times. “We have to look at having limited number of polling staff. We cannot depute people from other districts in view of the high number of Covid-19 positive cases. We have plans to conduct Panchayat election in phases. Each district will be divided into two or three zones and limited staff from the districts can be utilised as the polls will be conducted in phases,’’ he said.

Meanwhile, the Kannada Sahithya Parishat is also due for election early next year. For the first time, number of voters has crossed three lakh and presently, there are 3.33 lakh registered voters. Parishat president Manu Baligar’s term will end by the first week of March 2021.Speaking to TNIE, Baligar said they will write to the State Government in November as they have to be informed three months before the election is due. “There is no need to postpone the election as the state is already going for many elections,’’ he pointed out.

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