VIJAYAWADA: The Supreme Court dismissed the AP government’s plea to postpone the gram panchayat polls and cleared the decks for going ahead with the elections as per schedule.
A division bench comprising justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Hrishikesh Roy held a hearing on Monday.
Justice Kaul observed, “Ego problems between two authorities are causing all this lawlessness. This cannot be allowed. The court will not be a party to an ego clash. Some decisions are political while some are administrative. We will not assume everyone’s functions. Some decisions have to be taken by the SEC. We feel that the real issue is actually something else and not what is being argued here.”
He pointed out that elections were held in several parts of the country even during the prevalence of Covid-19 pandemic. Kerala conducted elections though it witnessed a major spike in cases.
The court took a serious view of interveners like the AP Government Employees Federation, doctors and bureaucrats in the matter and opined that it was uncalled for.
Government senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi argued that holding gram panchayat elections were difficult as the state government was preoccupied with Covid-19 vaccination programme and more than five lakh persons were to be vaccinated. He asked whether the state government should allow its employees to conduct polls without undergoing vaccination and fall prey.
Rohatgi said Goa had deferred the polls for the same reason. He informed the court that gram panchayat polls could be held from March 1 considering that by the end of January, all healthcare workers could be vaccinated.
However, the court observed, “Whenever there are elections, you come to the court. The point of AP HC order was to have elections held and it is the SEC which has to hold them. Look at the grounds in your petition. How is the State Election Commissioner acting in a mala-fide manner while employees’ associations are passing resolutions against him.”
Though Rohatgi tried to convince that the government is not concerned with the dispute with the Election Commissioner, the court remarked, “Your appeal only gives this impression. You are talking about when the Election Commissioner will retire. In the past, elections have been successfully held in even more difficult times.”
It may be mentioned that the State Election Commission issued election proceedings to conduct gram panchayat polls in four phases on January 8. When the state government challenged it before a single judge in the High Court, the latter issued an interim order setting aside election proceedings. The SEC then moved the regular bench, which set aside the single judge’s interim order, and allowed conduct of gram panchayat polls....