This article is written by – Abhishree Paradkar, Symbiosis Law School, Pune
Recently, the State Government was asked by the Karnataka High Court to justify its reasons with respect to its stand for postponing the elections of the local body to December 2021.
A division bench consisting of Chief Justice Abhay Sreenivas Oka and Justice NS Sanjay Gowda, inquired about the reason for keeping religion open, while at the same time, deferring the election stating the reason for the COVID-19 pandemic. They also highlighted that Karnataka is the only state that did not abide by the constitutional mandate. They stated that, if religious places are open and people can form queues there, then they can surely come to the polling booths as well.
In 2020, the Karnataka High Court had suo moto registered a case when it noticed that the local body elections would not be conducted as per the constitutional mandate under Article 243 (3) of the Indian Constitution.
The State government took a decision on 17th May, to postpone the zilla taluka panchayat and other municipal body elections two days beyond 31st December 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On 4th August, during the hearing, the advocate of the government, informed the High Court of the decision of the state government to postpone the elections of all the local bodies to December 2021.
The state had also requested the State Election Commission to defer the polls.
The court also pointed out that the situation with respect to the pandemic had improved since this decision was taken and furthermore even the assembly polls had been conducted during the pandemic. The court also added that the government’s decision it’s not binding on the State Election Commission which has the constitutional duty and authority to conduct the elections within the stated time.
Senior advocate KN Phanindra, who represented the SEC further submitted that the deputy commissioners of the SEC were ready to conduct the elections and a meeting with respect to the same was also held on 28th July to discuss those matters.
Lastly, the court asked the state government to justify it’s reasoning in postponing the local body elections.
The matter is scheduled to be further heard on 13th August.