The Kerala High Court ordered the ECI to complete the election process before May 2
The Election Commission of India (ECI) on Monday announced that polls to three Rajya Sabha seats from Kerala, which it had earlier scheduled for April 12 but later put off, would take place on April 30.
The Kerala High Court had earlier on Monday directed the commission to complete the elections before May 2.
The ECI had on March 17 announced elections to fill the three seats being vacated due to the retirement of MPs Abdul Wahab, K.K. Ragesh and Vayalar Ravi on April 21.
“However, on the eve of the date on which the Notification was to be issued, the Commission received a reference from the Ministry of Law and Justice, Government of India, wherein a question of constitutional propriety was raised,” the ECI said in a statement on Monday.
Elections to the Kerala Assembly were held on April 6 and results would be announced on May 2.
The ECI decided to keep the notification in abeyance to examine the issue.
On Monday, the ECI said it had decided to hold the elections, with the notification for polls to be issued on Tuesday, the last date for making nominations on April 20, the last date for withdrawal of candidature on April 23 and polling and counting of votes on April 30.
HC directive to ECI
The High Court on Monday ordered the ECI to take expeditious steps to complete the election process before May 2. Justice P.V. Asha observed that “when the commission itself has admitted that it is duty-bound to conduct the election and complete the process at the earliest, it is only appropriate that it takes expeditious steps to complete the election before another electorate comes into existence on May 2, 2021.”
The court added that the commission, which was fully aware of its duty conferred under Article 324 of the Constitution, had to expedite the proceedings to see to it that the representation in the Upper House from Kerala was always in full swing and to avoid a situation where the nomination was made by the existing Assembly and voting by another Assembly.
‘Not any date’
The court noted that once the counting for the Assembly polls was over and on declaration by the returning officer, there would be another electorate. It could have been avoided if the election was held as scheduled before May 2, the counting date.
The fact that it was up to the commission to fix the schedule of the election would not mean that the commission could fix any date. It was incumbent on the commission to act fairly and legally as Article 324 was “geared to the accomplishment of free and fair elections expeditiously”.
The court issued the directives while disposing of writ petitions by the Kerala Legislative Assembly Secretary and S. Sarma, CPI(M) MLA, challenging the commission’s decision to keep in abeyance the election process for the three vacancies from the State in the Rajya Sabha.
The Election Commission had submitted that the elections would be held during the tenure of the present Assembly.
(With inputs from Kochi bureau)