NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday stayed an order of the Madhya Pradesh High Court, which had restricted political rallies in the state for the upcoming by-polls, and left it to the Election Commission to take appropriate steps in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A bench of the apex court, headed by Justice AM Khanwilkar, also pulled up political parties for creating a situation that compelled the High Court to intervene.
If the parties had acted in a proper way and had maintained protocol, this situation would not have arisen in the first place, the bench observed. "You must ask yourself who is responsible for this situation in the first place," it added.
The top court was hearing two separate pleas filed by the Election Commission and BJP leader Pradyumn Singh Tomar against the order of the High Court imposing conditions in conducting physical gatherings by political parties for campaigning for the assembly bye-polls.
"Take charge, ensure you discharge your duties in a manner that's in the best interest of everyone. High Court need not have interfered had you done your job better," the bench further observed and listed the matter for further hearing after six weeks.
The EC had moved the top court saying conducting election was in sole jurisdiction of the Election Commission and that the High Court had no power to interfere.
BJP candidate Pradyumn Singh Tomar, contesting bye-election from Gwalior, had contended that the interim order of the High Court has violated his right to conduct election campaign through physical gatherings as permitted by the Election Commission, Centre and the state government.
The Gwalior bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court had restrained district magistrates in nine districts from giving permission to any political party or its candidate for any physical public meeting irrespective of its size if there is a possibility of a virtual election campaign.
The districts include Gwalior, Guna, Morena, Bhind, Ashok Nagar, Datia, Shivpuri, Sheopur, and Vidisha. Voting on 28 assembly seats in Madhya Pradesh by-polls will take place on November 3 and the results will be declared on November 10.
By-elections are due on 28 seats following the resignation of 25 MLAs and the death of three legislators earlier. In the 230-member assembly, the BJP has currently 107 MLAs and Congress 88. There are four independent MLAs, two from BSP and one from Samajwadi Party.