CUTTACK: In a significant direction, the Orissa High Court on Wednesday stayed the State Election Commission (SEC) order of prohibiting candidates for sarpanches and ward members from associating with political parties. A single judge Bench of Justice S K Mishra issued notice to the commission and fixed further hearing on February 2.
The stay came on a writ petition filed by Hiramani Singh, a sarpanch candidate from Mithrapur gram panchayat under Nilagiri Assembly constituency of Balasore district. The petitioner had called the SEC decision unilateral and sought lifting of the bar order.
The petitioner submitted before the court that when the code of conduct was prepared by the SEC after the all-party meeting on December 23, 2011, no such decision was taken although the expenditure ceiling for the candidates was fixed. As a result, the candidates prepared posters with party symbols and photographs.
Soon after, the SEC notification came and it was unilateral since it was decided without any all-party meet. The candidates, who had already spent money for printing posters, were clueless as to what to do with the campaign materials, the petitioner maintained.
The petitioner also alleged that such a notification amounts to violation of Fundamental Right enshrined under the Constitution. The SEC had stipulated that sarpanch and ward member candidates can neither claim support of any party nor can use photos of the leaders.
Since the day of barring, political parties had sought withdrawal of the order. In fact, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik was accused by the Congress of violating the poll code after a candidate was allegedly found sharing a dais during a campaign meeting at Tangi. The commission, however, gave clean chit to Naveen and once again cautioned candidates not to identify themselves with any political party during the campaigning.Meanwhile, the High Court order has been welcomed by the Pradesh Congress Committee.