The Election Commission is the sole authority to decide election dates and courts have no jurisdiction to interfere with it, the poll body submitted in the Madras High Court on Thursday.
State Chief Electoral Officer Satyabrata Sahoo stated this in a counter affidavit filed before a bench of Justices S Manikumar and Subramonium Prasad on petitions seeking rescheduling of April 18 Lok Sabha polls in Tamil Nadu citing religious festivals and events.
He said the Supreme Court in its various judgments had held that the framing of schedule or calendar for election was in the exclusive domain of the Election Commission (EC).
The occurrence of a religious festival or season is common in the country and elections cannot be deferred solely on this ground, the counter said, seeking dismissal of the petitions.
After hearing the arguments by the counsels for the EC and the petitioners, the bench reserved its order for Friday.
The court had on Tuesday directed the EC to file the counter after its counsel informed that a representation by the archbishop had already been rejected by the poll body.
A Madurai-based advocate in his PIL has sought change in the polling date, saying it clashed with the famous 'Chitirai' festival there that draws lakhs of devotees from five southern districts of Tamil Nadu and hence, would affect polling percentage.
Archbishop Antony Pappusamy, president of the Tamil Nadu Bishops Council, and S Inigo Irudayaraj, Managing Trustee of a Christian forum here, have also sought rescheduling of the election date, citing it fell during the 'Easter Triduum', a key religious event for Christians.
The CEO in the counter said based on the assessment of the Madurai district administration, it was ideal to proceed with the election as scheduled with additional deployment of security personnel and extended polling hours.
He had earlier this week proposed to extend the polling in Madurai till 8 pm in view of the festival.
The counter pointed out that the top court had also ruled that plenary powers of the EC cannot be taken away by law framed by the Parliament.
It had also held that the ultimate decision on holding elections at any given point of time must rest with the EC and jurisdiction of courts would not extend to issuing directions to the Commission for the conduct of particular polls on particular dates independently of the poll body's perception, as to their feasibility and practicability, the CEO added.
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