Amidst opposition State Election Commission issues clarification on holding local polls, says election held elsewhere too

ITANAGAR Nov 18: The State Election Commission (SEC) has said that the elections to the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRI) and the municipal bodies of Itanagar and Pasighat are being conducted in December after the central government granted Covid-19 lockdown relaxations.

Responding to the All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union’s (AAPSU) demand for postponement of the local bodies’ election, the commission said that the Election Commission of India (ECI) has conducted election in Bihar and bye-elections in 10 other states.

Besides, local body elections have also taken place in Mizoram, Rajasthan under pandemic situation by following Covid protocol and safety guidelines, it said.

The SEC also said the  “announcement of local bodies elections-both  Panchayat and Municipal-has been made in compliance with the High Court directives dated 19/07/2018, 30/11/2018 in WP (C) No. 231(AP) 2018 in respect of Panchayat and judgment and orders dated 20/09/2018, 03/12/2018 and dated 25/09/2019 in PIL No. 22(AP) 2018 followed by contempt case No. 49(AP) 2019/1956-59.”

The Commission stated that the decision to delay local body elections was not made by the SEC but by the state government due to various reasons, such as “amendment of Acts/ Rules for both PRI and Municipal bodies, finalization of women reservations, notification on delimitation of municipal bodies etc., which are mandatorily required for conducting elections.”

The clearance of state government was conveyed on 20 January, 2020 with an advisory that elections be held during April/May 2020.

“Unfortunately, when the State Election Commission was fully prepared to announce the elections, the Covid-19 situation arose and the state went into lockdown and therefore in exercise of the plenary powers under 243 K of the Constitution of India, the local body elections were put on hold by the State Election Commission,” the Commission clarified.

“Considering all these factors, including constitutional mandate and High Court directives, the State Election Commission was constrained to announce the already delayed local body elections on 12 November . In view of Covid 19 situation, the Commission has finalized necessary guidelines/ SoP to be followed by the election officials, candidates and political parties during the process of election and responsibility has been fixed for enforcement of these guidelines,” it said.

Regarding allegations of superimposition of the electoral roll, it clarified that given the delay in issue of notification for delimitation of municipal bodies, the State Election Commission, in exercise of powers conferred under Section 17(2) of the Arunachal Pradesh Municipal Act, 2009, the electoral rolls of Legislative Assembly revised as on first January 2020

by following all due procedures by the ECI was adopted for the purpose of municipal elections.

In respect of Panchayat, the electoral roll was already updated by carrying out summary revision with 1st January, 2020 as the qualifying date. The exercise of electoral roll revision is carried out by the electoral registration officers in the district level only, the Commission said.

With regards to the issue relating to Vijoynagar of Changlang district, the Commission clarified that it is the subject of the state government to take policy decision and not within the purview of the SEC which decides on the basis of settled Act/ Rules of the government while adding that the issue has been referred to the Changlang deputy commissioner.