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Devbrat Patnaik

New Delhi: In the wake of the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has announced to defer the Rajya Sabha polls scheduled to be held on March 26. The Commission said that fresh dates will be announced later.

On Februaary 25, 2020, ECI had announced elections to the Council of States to fill 55 seats of Members from 17 States, retiring in the month of April 2020.

After the last date of withdrawal on March 18, 2020, respective Returning Officers declared 37 seats from 10 States filled in uncontested.

As per the reports received from the concerned Returning Officers, the biennial elections for 18 seats from the States of Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya and Rajasthan were to be held on March 26 (Thursday) and the date before which election was to be completed as earlier announced by the Commission was March 30, 2020 (Monday).

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However, ECI issued a press release today, mentioning that the prevailing unforeseen situation of public health emergency indicates the need to avoid possibilities of gatherings of any nature, which expose all concerned to possible health hazard. The poll process in the elections to the Upper House would necessarily include the gathering of polling officials, agents of political parties, support officials and members of respective Legislative Assemblies on the poll day, which may not be suitable in view of the prevailing situation and related advisories in the country.

Section 153 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 specifies that the Election Commission for reasons which it considers sufficient, may extend the time for the completion of any election by making necessary amendments in the notification issued by it under section 30 or sub-section (1) of section 39; and accordingly, the Election Commission has deferred the poll and extended the period of Rajya Sabha election under the provisions of section 153 of the said Act. The list of contesting candidates, already published for the polls by the respective Returning Officers shall remain valid for the purposes of remaining activities, as prescribed under the said notification.

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Fresh date of poll and counting for the said biennial elections shall be announced in due course after reviewing the prevailing situation, the Commission said.

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