Madhya Pradesh High Court: The Division Bench of Mohammad Rafiq, CJ. and Vijay Kumar Shukla, J., dismissed a PIL which was filed by the Nagrik Upbhokta Margdarshak Manch with a prayer that the Election Commission of India may be directed not to conduct bye-elections of Parliamentary Constituency of Khandwa and Assembly Constituencies of Prathvipur, Jobat and Rajgarh in the State of Madhya Pradesh and direct the respondents to conduct the bye-elections only after assessing the ground situation of coronavirus in the State.

Election Commission of India has filed reply to the writ petition stating that the Commission has reviewed the matter and has decided that due to outbreak of the second wave of Covid-19 in the country, it would not be appropriate to hold bye-elections till the pandemic situation significantly improves and conditions become conducive to hold these bye elections. A recently issued Press Note dated 04-09-2021 however stated that after taking into consideration the inputs and views of the Chief Secretaries of the concerned States and respective Chief Electoral Officers, the Commission has decided not to hold bye-elections in other 31 Assembly Constituencies and 3 Parliamentary Constituencies. However, considering the constitutional exigency and special request from State of West Bengal, it has decided to hold bye-election in 159 – Bhabanipur. Much stricter norms have been kept by the Commission as an abundant caution to safeguard from Covid-19 pandemic.

The Court stated that Article 324 of the Constitution is a reservoir of power for the Election Commission to act in such vacuous area where enacted laws make no provisions or make ‘insufficient provisions’ to deal with the situation confronting the Election Commission in the conduct of elections as held in catena of judgments referring to the judgment of Supreme Court in Mohinder Singh Gill v. The Chief Election Commissioner, (1978) 1 SCC 405; Kanhiya Lal Omar v. R.K. Trivedi, AIR 1986 SC 111; Union of India v. Association for Democratic Reforms, AIR 2002 SC 2112.

The Curt further reiterated the paragraph from Special Reference No.1 of 2002, AIR 2003 SC 87 where it was categorically held that the decision regarding elections should not be interfered with as the Election Commission of India is best suited to decide the same.

“80. So far as the framing of the schedule or calendar for election of the Legislative Assembly is concerned, the same is in the exclusive domain of the Election commission, which is not subject to any law framed by the Parliament. The Parliament is empowered to frame law as regards conduct of elections but conducting elections is the sole responsibility of the Election Commission. As a matter of law, the plenary powers of the Election Commission can not be taken away by law framed by Parliament. If Parliament makes any such law, it would repugnant to Article 324.”

The Court while dismissing the PIL held that only the Election Commission of India is competent to decide as to when should the bye-elections to Parliamentary Constituency of Khandwa and Assembly Constituencies of Prathvipur, Jobat and Rajgarh should be held.[Nagrik Upbhokta Margdarshak Manch v. State of M.P., WP-15280-2021, decided on 22-09-2021]

Suchita Shukla, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

For the petitioner: Mr Dinesh Kumar Upadhyay

For the respondents/ State: Mr Pushpendra Yadav and Mr Siddharth Seth

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