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SEC directed to declare elections to 5,800 GPs in 3 weeks

Govt. has no say in holding elections to panchayats: HC

In a setback to the State government, the High Court of Karnataka on Friday declared that only the State Election Commission can examine whether there exists an “exceptional situation” to postpone the elections to panchayats beyond the period prescribed in the Constitution and that the government has no say in it.

While directing the SEC to announce elections to 5,800 gram panchayats within three weeks, the court also declared that the SEC is not required to consult the government on holding the the elections and the State government has no role to play. A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Ashok S. Kinagi delivered the verdict on a PIL petition filed by K.C. Kondaiah, Congress MLC, and seeking direction for holding elections to gram panchayats.

Can seek feedback

If the SEC wants any feedback or any factual information regarding the situation prevailing, then it can seek feedback from the government or its officers for the purpose of arriving at a decision, the Bench said.

The Bench did not appreciate the stand of the State government that it would be difficult to implement the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) prescribed by the SEC to conduct elections to the panchayats.

“In fact, it is the duty of the State government to take appropriate steps to ensure that the SOP published by the SEC is strictly implemented in true letter and spirit,” the Bench observed, while declining to accept the government’s claim that it is difficult to hold elections in view of COVID-19.

The Bench told the government to look at examples such as elections to Bihar Assembly, bypolls to Karnataka Assembly, and minor children attending SSLC exams in the State.

Governor’s role

Even if government staff is required for holding polls, the requisition has to be submitted by the SEC to the Governor and not to the State government, and the Governor, as per Constitution, has no choice but to make available the required, the Bench said, while stating it is obligation of the government to allocate funds to SEC.

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