The Supreme Court today allowed the state election commission in Uttar Pradesh to hold counting of votes tomorrow for the rural polls after raising concerns over Covid surge and citing a petition from a teachers' body that said 700 teachers had died while they were on duty during the four-phased elections.
A curfew will be imposed in areas near the counting 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. The Supreme Court directed the officials to save the CCTV footage of all the counting centres.
Citing the frightening Covid spike in the state, the top court had earlier asked the state election commission if it could delay the counting. "Despite the situation, you need to go ahead? Can you have it after two weeks so that the medical facilities can be improved?" the court said.
"You want to proceed despite all odds? Heavens will not fall if counting is deferred by three weeks," the top court said in a sharp remark.
The UP Election Commission, however, told the court: "We have taken a decision to go ahead."
"Teachers' association has filed a petition, and they are unwilling to work. How do you handle the situation?" the court further asked, referring to the plea which mentioned 700 teaches died during the polling process.
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 Aishwaya Bhati, who represented the UP state election commission, told the court that there is a cap of 75 persons 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.
Polling for the four-phased panchayat elections in Uttar Pradesh ended on Thursday. Results will be out tomorrow along with the state election results for Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam and Puducherry.
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 today slammed the state government in a series of tweets.
"These elections have been conducted in almost 60,000 gram sabhas of UP without any thought of the catastrophic onslaught of the second wave," she said.
These elections have been conducted in almost 60,000 gram sabhas of UP without any thought of the catastrophic onslaught of the second wave.— Priyanka Gandhi Vadra (@priyankagandhi) May 1, 2021
The government's actions are designed to cover up the truth and terrorise both the public and the medical community, which is working tirelessly to save lives.— Priyanka Gandhi Vadra (@priyankagandhi) May 1, 2021
"What is happening in UP is nothing less than a crime against humanity and the CEC is playing along," the Congress leader alleged.
BSP chief Mayawati on Friday 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 employees killed on poll duty and also give a government job to one of them," she said in a tweet in Hindi.
Uttar Pradesh's Covid caseload surge to 12.5 lakh with 34,372 cases reported in the last 24 hours. The state has the fourth highest number of cases in the country after Maharashtra, Kerala and Karnataka.
India's Covid cases hit a grim world record this morning with over 4.01 lakh cases reported in the last 24 hours