Supreme Court. (File Photo: IANS). Image Source: IANS News

New Delhi, Oct 26 : The Supreme Court on Monday stayed a Madhya Pradesh High Court order to political parties to campaign virtually for the November 3 Assembly bypolls in the state, but pulled up the parties for creating a situation that compelled the HC to act.

The top court stayed the High Court order, but noted that the situation would not have arisen if health protocols were followed in the backdrop of COVID-19 pandemic.

A bench headed by Justice AM Khanwilkar said: "Had political parties maintained the protocols, this situation would not have arisen." Staying the High Court order, the bench also asked the Election Commission of India to take an appropriate decision in connection with political rallies as per the law in the backdrop of COVID-19 guidelines.

The bench noted that the High Court would not have interfered if the political parties had done their job better. "Take charge, ensure you discharge your duties in a manner that are in the best interest of everyone," noted the bench.

The top court's order came during the hearing on pleas by the Election Commission and Madhya Pradesh Energy Minister Pradyuman Singh Tomar against the High Court order of October 20.

The bench asked Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Tomar, to make a representation to the Election Commission for the loss of time in electioneering due to the High Court order.

The poll panel, represented by Senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, assailed the High Court order and citing Article 329 of the Constitution said that the conduct and management of elections was overseen by it and there was an express bar on judicial interference in the middle of the electoral process.

Tomar, a BJP candidate for Gwalior Assembly seat bypoll in Madhya Pradesh, pleaded that the High Court committed an error as it overlooked that the Election Commission under Article 324 had issued COVID-19 guidelines in September-end to permit physical public gatherings albeit with restrictions.

The bypolls to 28 Assembly seats in the state are slated for November 3. The plea said that as per the guidelines and the state government SOPs, political gatherings of over 100 people with safety measures could be allowed.

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