The Election Commission of India (ECI) told the Gujarat High Court on Wednesday that it will assess the coronavirus situation and decide whether bypolls to eight Assembly seats in the state should be deferred.
The poll panel was responding to a Public Interest Litigation seeking indefinite postponement of the byelections. The ECI will also frame broad guidelines within three days on holding of general and byelections during the COVID-19 pandemic based on guidelines issued by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Health, it had said in a press release issued on Tuesday.
The release was submitted to the high court along with an affidavit-in-reply.
Petitioner Farsu Goklani sought indefinite postponement of byelections to eight Assembly seats — which fell vacant after Congress MLAs resigned — in view of the coronavirus outbreak.
"….the ECI is assessing the situation including thepandemic and so far not announced dates for the by-elections in the state of Gujarat as well as those in other states," the poll body said.
"The Election Commission will take appropriate decision as to whether to announce elections at an appropriate time or if required to defer holding of elections after following due procedure as prescribed in law," said Joint Chief Electoral Officer, Gujarat, Ajay Bhatt.
On the basis of the guidelines it is going to form, chief electoral officers of states where elections are due shall prepare a comprehensive plan of coronavirus-related measures during the conduct of elections, the ECI's Tuesday release said.
Bhatt also cited two Supreme Court judgments where it was held that the ultimate decision on "whether it is possible and expedient to hold the elections" must rest with the ECI.
The seats that became vacant after the resignations of Congress MLAs are Dhari, Abdasa, Limbdi, Gadhda, Dang, Karjan, Morbi and Kaprada.