HC strikes down Odisha govt’s amendment to ZP poll rules

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Cuttack: The Orissa High Court on Thursday struck down an amendment brought in by the state government in the Odisha Zilla Parishad Election Rules of 1994.

Striking down the amendment effected on March 8, a division bench led by Chief Justice Vineet Saran observed that rules, laws or acts governing a particular election shall not be altered during the intervening period once the process of polling has started.

After the polling for the panchayat elections started in the state in February, the Panchayati Raj department incorporated a new clause in the 1994 Rules, four days before the scheduled March 12 elections for the posts of chairman of the district councils.

The new clause provided for appointment of agents by every political party and the election officer was empowered to allow the authorised agents to check the vote cast by an elected member of their respective parties as is the practice during Rajya Sabha elections.

Challenging the impugned amendment, an elected zilla parishad member of Sundargarh district had approached the High Court contending that it can not be brought in midway, once the process of election has started.

Arguing against the petition, the state government had told the court that the amendment was made to ensure transparency and prevent cross-voting in the elections for the posts of chairmen and vice-chairmen of the district councils.

The State Election Commission (SEC), on the other hand, had objected to the alteration of rules midway saying that the settled law was that no government or court should interfere with the election once the process had started.

Today’s High Court judgment is likely to have an impact on the just-concluded elections for the posts of chairmen and vice-chairmen of the district councils which were held under the impugned amendment.

While opposition BJP and Congress have started raising a demand for fresh elections, the ruling BJD is mulling filing a review petition in the High Court or approaching the Supreme Court.

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