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No postal ballots for people aged over 65 in Bihar polls

The Election Commission on Thursday stated it has determined to not notify the legislation ministry’s modification to the Representation of People Act, 1951, that might have allowed these over the age of 65 to make use of postal ballots within the upcoming Bihar meeting elections and by-elections due within the close to future, in a transfer welcomed by political events.

The legislation ministry, on the advice of the Commission, had determined to permit individuals over 65 to vote remotely within the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. The provision was presupposed to be an enabling one.

Five key opposition events wrote to Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora to rethink the transfer which a few of them stated would unduly profit the ruling Janata Dal (United), or JDU-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) alliance in Bihar.

The Bihar meeting lapses in November this 12 months and Arora had advised Hindustan Times in an interview on June 27 that as of now, the elections will probably be held when they’re due. It would be the first meeting election for the reason that pandemic started. According to EC officers, there are additionally practically 50 by-elections that the Commission is gearing as much as conduct.

The Commission has cited “the field situation and logistics of operationalization” because the rationale behind its determination to not permit postal ballots.

“Before every election, we have our field officers evaluate the practical situation on the ground,” a ballot physique official stated on situation of anonymity. “Their assessment suggests that it may not be feasible to have postal ballots.”

The EC official added that the Commission had listened to and evaluated the representations made by the political events, however that wasn’t the explanation behind the choice.

“We heard all of them and their various objections to the postal ballot. The decision, though, has not been taken on the grounds that they made,” the official stated.

The official added that the modification to the RP Act would nonetheless maintain. “If we want to use it, we can notify it ahead of the election. That is how it was done in Delhi and Jharkhand.”

The facility of non-obligatory postal ballots to electors who’re above 80 years of age, individuals with disabilities , voters engaged in important providers and voters who’re Covid-19 optimistic or are suspected to be carrying the virus and quarantine (dwelling/institutional) will probably be prolonged in these elections.

Among the dissenting political events had been Congress, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Trinamool Congress (TMC), Communist Party of India (CPI)and Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPI (M).

CPI(M) normal secretary Sitaram Yechury was among the many first to boost issues about postal ballots favouring the ruling social gathering. This was adopted by a illustration by the Congress that stated that the step would violate the secrecy of the vote. TMC, CPI and RJD additionally wrote to the Commission stating that no political events had been consulted earlier than the choice was taken.

The Commission, in an in depth reply to Yechury talked about that Bihar’s chief electoral officer had held consultations with numerous political events.

Yechury stated that whereas they might not have notified the usage of modification for the polls, the change within the RP Act has already been made. “It is the constitutional mandate of the Commission to provide a level playing field,” stated Yechury. “They have decreed the amendment, the EC can use it. All parties should have been consulted before the amendment was made. That has not been done.”

Bihar deputy chief minister Sushil Modi was among the many first to welcome the EC’s determination to drop the thought of postal ballots, as did the opposition events.

“Postal ballots could have been misused by parties like the RJD and Congress,” Modi advised Hindustan Times. “RJD in any case has a culture of looting votes. Moreover, there would have been logistical issues. The EC would have to amass enough manpower to collect postal ballots from nearly 30,000 people in every constituency.”

According to Modi, practically 10% of Bihar’s inhabitants is above 65. There are over 70 million voters in Bihar.

“There were concerns raised about the secrecy of postal ballot and also the safety of voters. The decision was hasty and without due application of mind. We welcome today’s decision of the EC and hope appropriate measures will be taken to safeguard the health of voters,” Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera stated.

According to Derek O’Brien, Trinamool’s Parliamentary social gathering chief within the Rajya Sabha, the choice was an undemocratic one.

“Trinamool had written to the Commission giving compelling reasons why they were ill-advised to be pushed into taking a decision that was completely illegal, undemocratic and was arrived at without consulting any political parties. So that is that,” O’Brien stated. West Bengal is scheduled to go to the polls within the first half of 2021.

RJD spokesperson Manoj Jha additionally harassed that by not notifying the modification, a free and truthful election could be ensured within the state.

“We are glad that the EC has decided to not notify the amendment. Any change whatsoever in the peoples representation act should only be done by engaging through wider consultations. The commission should always remember that the idea of free and fair election as well as ensuring level playing field is not simply rhetoric,” RJD spokesperson Manoj Jha stated.

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