The Supreme Court on Saturday, 1 May, allowed the state election commission in Uttar Pradesh to hold counting of votes on Sunday, 2 May, for the rural polls. This, after raising concerns over COVID surge and citing a petition from a teachers' body that said 700 teachers died while they were on duty during the four-phased elections.
A curfew will be imposed in areas near the courting centres and no victory rallies will be allowed in UP after the results are out, the court was assured by the poll commission, which also said that senior officials will ensure that COVID protocol is followed at all the counting centres.
Heavens Won't Fall if Counting Is Delayed
Earlier, citing the surge in COVID cases in the state, the Apex Court had asked the state election commission if it could delay the counting.
“You want to proceed despite all odds? Heavens will not fall if counting is deferred by three weeks.”Supreme Court
The UP Election Commission, however, told the court: "We have taken a decision to go ahead."
At the beginning of the hearing, the state election commission had assured the top court that it will adhere to COVID protocol for the counting process. Oximeter tests will be done at the entrance of counting centres, no crowds will be allowed inside the counting centres, and outside centres will be sanitised after every shift, social distancing will be maintained and thermal checking will be done, it said.
Senior Advocate and Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, who represented the UP state election commission, told the court that there is a cap of 75 people at each counting centre and there are 829 total counting centres.
"If something goes wrong, senior officers on duty will be held accountable," the top court said.
Holding Panchayat Poll Amid COVID-19 Crisis
Voting for the second phase of the Uttar Pradesh panchayat elections began on Monday, 19 April, with more than 3.48 lakh candidates in the fray for over 2.23 lakh posts across 20 districts.
Polling began at 7 am and will end at 6 pm on Monday, 3 May, with over 3.23 crore voters eligible to exercise their franchise.
Opposition leaders have hit out at the Yogi Adityanath government over the death of teachers who were on poll duty. Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra slammed the state government on Saturday in a series of tweets.
BSP chief Mayawati on Friday, 30 April, demanded that the state government provide financial support to dependents of employees who died due to coronavirus while on panchayat poll duty. “The government should provide proper financial help to dependent family members of all employees killed on poll duty and also give a government job to one of them,” she said in a tweet in Hindi.