The coronavirus crisis cannot be a "valid reason" for stopping elections, the Supreme Court said today, rejecting a petition asking that the Bihar polls, due later this year, be cancelled.
"Covid cannot be a ground for stopping elections and interfering with the powers of the Election Commission," the Supreme Court said, also calling the petition "premature" as there was no notification announcing Bihar poll dates.
"This court cannot tell the Chief Election Commissioner what to do. He (CEC) will consider everything," the judges said.
"No notification has been issued. How can we ask the Election Commission to not hold elections? Covid is not a valid reason for postponement of the election."
The Election Commission "will take all the necessary precautions and consider everything," the court told petitioner Avinash Thakur, who had asked for the Supreme Court's intervention to put off the Bihar election, due by November.
The petitioner argued that the Supreme Court could seek a report from the Bihar disaster management authority on the coronavirus situation in the state.
"The Election Commission will take care of every situation. Petition dismissed," said the judges.
Over the past few months, there have been calls for putting off the Bihar election not just from opposition parties in the state like Congress and Lalu Yadav's RJD but also allies of the Nitish Kumar-led NDA like Chirag Paswan.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has come under attack from his critics and has been accused of pushing for elections despite the virus crisis for political gains.
Last week, the Election Commission was seen to take the first step towards the Bihar election by announcing new rules for voting in the time of Covid-19.
These include door-to-door campaigns with only five people and gloves for voters. A maximum of 1,000 voters can be present at any polling booth at a time, and every voter's body temperature will be checked before the person is allowed to enter the polling booth. The rules also allow candidates to complete their paperwork online.
Bihar has reported 1,28,780 coronavirus cases and 538 deaths.
Except Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal (United) and the BJP, almost all major political parties have demanded that elections be postponed.