Gujarat HC dismisses plea on vote counting dates

Polls to six municipal corporations are scheduled to be held on February 21

In a setback to the Congress in Gujarat, the Gujarat High Court on Friday dismissed a petition challenging the State Election Commission’s decision to conduct counting of votes for the local municipal and panchayat elections on different dates.

The Congress had sought the court’s intervention on the grounds that counting of votes for municipal and panchayat polls should be held simultaneously on the same day.

While the Gujarat BJP has welcomed the decision, the Congress said it is mulling on whether to approach the Supreme Court. “Our legal team will study the court’s verdict and decide on the next step,” said State Congress president Amit Chavda.

As per the election schedule declared by the SEC last month, polls to six municipal corporations are scheduled to be held on February 21 and counting of votes will be taken up on February 23. In the second phase, elections of municipalities and panchayats will take place on February 28, and counting of votes will be done on March 2.

The petition filed by the opposition party contended that the announcement of results for Municipal polls on February 23 would influence the voters in rural and semi-urban areas.

However, a Division Bench comprising Justice J.B. Pardiwala and Justice Ilesh Vora rejected the petition, which had sought the High Court’s direction to quash the SEC’s January 23 circular fixing February 23 and March 2 as the dates for counting of votes.

The petition was filed jointly by Natwar Mahida, Govind Parmar and Jagdish Makwana, all Congress party workers on February 2.

The petitioners demanded that the date of counting should be the same for a “free and fair election”.

The SEC, however, argued that different dates had been allotted keeping in mind the coronavirus outbreak since pandemic guidelines necessitate maintaining social distancing and other norms.

As per the State Election Commission’s contention, different dates would help the authorities in limiting the number of people who gather at counting centres, and thereby contain the spread of the virus.

The six municipal corporations bound for polls on February 21 are Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara, Rajkot, Bhavnagar and Jamnagar.

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