In a setback to the ruling YSR Congress Party, the Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the state election commission’s decision to postpone the civic body elections in Andhra Pradesh. Hearing a caveat petition filed by the Jagan government, the apex court said the SEC’s decision as a constitutional authority to defer polls by six weeks supreme. The SEC put off elections in AP citing the coronavirus scare and incidents of violence being reported since election dates were announced following which the ruling YSRCP has filed a petition in the apex court. In the petition, the YSRCP contended that the SEC decision was undemocratic as the decision to postpone the local body polls was taken without any consultation with authorities concerned. Telugu Desam Party (TDP) president and former chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu came down heavily on the state government for questioning the SEC’s move to put off the elections.
However, in a reprieve to the YSRCP government the Supreme Court partially relaxed the model code of conduct as the elections were postponed and that the state government can continue with its existing welfare schemes or projects with a rider that no freebies should be announced during the six weeks period. However, any new welfare scheme or project should have an approval of the State Election Commission, the Supreme Court observed. Recently, the Maharashtra State Election Commission deferred elections to local bodies in view of the spread of coronavirus.
As a matter of fact, the Supreme Court has taken the spread of coronavirus seriously and initiated several measures to counter the spread of COVID-19. The CJI asked bar bodies to deploy volunteers in court halls, and encourage the members to keep distance and request the lawyers to leave the premises as soon as their matter concludes. In fact, members of the bar were asked to accept, encourage and promote e-filing and video conference of court halls. Thermal screening at the entrance of the apex court was installed and individuals have to fill up declaration forms disclosing if they have cough, cold symptoms.
Recently, it had sought the reply of Director-General, Prison, and chief secretaries of all states and union territories by March 20 regarding the precautionary measures taken in jails across India. The court also cautioned that mass gathering is a big problem and it can become a centre for the spread of coronavirus.