The Supreme Court on Saturday refused to stay the counting of votes for panchayat polls in Uttar Pradesh scheduled for Sunday. In a special urgent hearing on a court holiday, a bench comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and Hrishikesh Roy passed the order after taking note of several notifications and assurances of the UP State Election Commission that COVID-19 protocols will be followed at the 829 counting centres in the state.
The apex court directed that there will be a strict curfew in the entire state during the counting of votes till Tuesday morning and no victory rallies will be permitted.
It also asked the State Election Commission to fasten responsibility for observance of COVID-19 protocols at counting centres on gazettes officers.
The bench also directed the poll panel to preserve CCTV footage of counting centres in the state till the Allahabad High Court concludes the hearing on related petitions before it.
It also ordered that government officials, candidates and their agents will have to produce RT-PCR tests to show they are COVID-19 negative before entering counting centres.
On Friday, the Supreme Court Friday had sought response from the Uttar Pradesh government and the state election commission (SEC) on a plea seeking direction for observance of COVID-19 protocols in the counting of votes on Sunday for recently concluded Panchayat polls there in view of the second wave of COVID-19.
A bench headed by Justice A M Khanwilkar, while issuing notice to the state government and the poll panel, took note of the submissions of lawyer Shoeb Alam and agreed to hear the appeal on Saturday.
The bench was hearing the appeal filed by one Sachin Yadav challenging the Allahabad High Court order which had allowed Panchayat elections to continue in the state.
Polling for the panchayat elections in Uttar Pradesh ended Thursday with an over 60 per cent turnout till 5 pm in the final phase, marred by a group clash in Mathura and the deaths of two workers who fell ill while on poll duty.