Telangana HC criticises SEC for holding municipal elections during Covid times

HYDERABAD: The decision to hold elections in these tense Covid-19 times is tantamount to a walk into the jaws of death, the Telangana High Court opined on Thursday. It criticised the State Election Commission (SEC) for going ahead with the election process in the municipal corporations of Greater Warangal and Khammam as also five municipalities.

A divison bench of Chief Justice Hima Kohli and Justice B. Vijaysen Reddy asked the SEC whether sky would fall if the elections were postponed.

“If you are so bent on clinging to your tasks, wasn`t there any delay in conducting elections on time? Wasn’t there any situation when a local body was administered by the special officer for the interim? We all witnessed that the state capital’s Mayor post was not filled for more than a year and a half without conducting GHMC elections even when there was no Corona or a calamity. But, at the time of the serious surge in Covid-19 cases in the state, you rushed to conduct elections as if the sky will otherwise fall down. This was not a calibrated decision, whatever the reasons be,” the bench told SEC secretary Ashok Kumar.

He has appeared before the court on its direction to explain the reasons for conducting the elections in Covid times.

The bench asked SEC why it didn’t stall the elections or postpone them by exercising the power vested in it under the statute, keeping in view the serious surge in Covid-19 cases in the state.

Chief Justice Kohli said the SEC has not only put the lives of the voters as also of 7,695 government employees and 2,557 police personnel to risk.

The Chief Justice said that current situation reminded the court of the poem penned by Alfred Lord Tennyson titled Charge of the Light Brigade, wherein the British Cavalry Unit, the Light Brigade comprising 600 soldiers, was directed to charge against the enemy even as such an act was suicidal and a blunder. It rode them into the jaws of death.

“Cannon to right of them, Cannon to left of them, Cannon in front of  them, Volleyed and thundered; Stormed at with shot and shell, Boldly they rode and well, Into the jaws of Death, Into the mouth of hell,” was how CJ Kohli recited the poem.

When Ashok Kumar informed the division bench that these elections are only confined and restricted to two municipal corporations and five municipalities, CJ Kohli cited the high number of Covid19 Positive cases in these areas and questioned him as to whether the SEC was not aware of the Coronavirus cases in these areas.

“The entire world, not only the country or the state, knows of the war-like conditions going on since February 2021. Does the SEC not belong to this planet? Are you living on Mars? You gave the Notification on April 16. Some of the municipalities’ terms have not been completed by March and mid-April. You have four months' time to conduct elections. Is there such an urgency or statutory compulsion to hold a meeting of newly elected municipal councillors, as of a meeting of the Council of Ministers,” the CJ asked counsel for SEC.

The Bench observed that the municipal elections on April 30 when the entire state is gripped by Covid-19 is a deliberate and ironic decision of the State Election Commission. “It has really botched up the entire situation in the state. Warangal, Achampet, Rangareddy, Mahbubnagar, Nagarkurnool have seen the highest spurt in Covid-19 cases. This is nothing but jeopardizing the life of the citizens,” the court said and directed SEC to file a report by May 5. 



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