The Calcutta High Court on Thursday asked the West Bengal State Election Commission to consider postponing civic polls by four to six weeks due to the rise in Covid-19 cases, PTI reported.
Elections to the municipal corporations of Bidhannagar, Chandannagar, Siliguri and Asansol are slated to be held on January 22.
The court directed the State Election Commission to take a decision on the matter within 48 hours. It took note of the “galloping speed” at which coronavirus cases are increasing in the state, according to Live Law.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Prakash Shrivastava passed the order in a public interest litigation seeking the postponement of the municipal elections. The court allowed the petitioner, social activist Bimal Bhattacharya, to submit information about the Covid-19 situation to the state poll panel.
On Thursday, the court noted that West Bengal had recorded a record high 24,287 Covid-19 cases on January 9, and that the districts of North 24 Parganas and Hooghly had reported 5,053 and 1,276 infections on that day.
The town of Bidhannagar is located in the North 24 Parganas district, while Chandannagar is located in the Hooghly district.
The High Court asked the election body to take a call on whether free, fair and peaceful elections could be held in such a situation.
The West Bengal State Election Commission has prohibited large rallies or road shows ahead of elections. It has allowed a maximum of 500 people to attend political party meetings in open spaces, and 200 people, or up to 50% seating capacity, to attend such meetings inside halls.
On January 9, Trinamool Congress National General Secretary Abhishek Banerjee had said that all political activities ahead of the civic elections should be banned, The Indian Express reported.
“This is my personal opinion,” Banerjee said. “But I think in this situation, all types of political and religious activities should be postponed… No political and religious gatherings in the interest of people till February.”
The Bharatiya Janata Party and the Left Front have also reportedly supported imposing a ban on political rallies.
On January 5, the Uttarakhand High Court also urged the Election Commission to consider banning large gatherings and to allow virtual rallies for the state Assembly elections expected to be held next month.
Last year, Assembly elections in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam and Puducherry were held amid the devastating second wave of the coronavirus.
While the country battled with a record surge in Covid-19 cases for weeks and hospitals ran out of beds and oxygen, politicians held election rallies attended by thousands, with little or no physical distancing or usage of masks.