The Uttarakhand High Court on Thursday said that the state Assembly elections cannot be deferred as the Election Commission has issued the notifications for the polls, reported The Times of India.

The bench of Acting Chief Justice Sanjay Kumar Chauhan and Justice NS Dhanik made the statement while hearing a bunch of petitions related to the coronavirus situation in the country. One of the petitions had sought to postpone the elections due to the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

On January 5, the High Court had asked the Election Commission to consider banning large gatherings and to allow virtual rallies for the Assembly elections. It had also urged the poll panel to consider online voting as an alternative.

The notification on the election dates was issued three days later on January 8. Uttarakhand will go to polls February 14.

During Thursday’s hearing, the Election Commission told the High Court that it has stopped political parties from conducting rallies till Saturday. The poll panel also said that candidates have been given the option to file nomination papers online.

The High Court asked the state government about reports of the district monitoring committees with regard to poll preparedness. Chief standing advocate Chandra Shekhar Rawat, appearing for the state government, said nine out of 13 districts have submitted the report while others are awaited.

The bench then asked the state counsel to present reports for all 13 districts before the court in the next hearing on February 15.

Meanwhile, the High Court directed the state government to administer the booster dose of the coronavirus vaccine to eligible senior citizens at their homes if they are unable to travel to the immunisation centres, reported Live Law.

Elections during the pandemic

The Calcutta High Court on Friday 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.

Before that on December 23, Justice Shekhar Yadav of the Allahabad High Court had requested the Election Commission to postpone the upcoming state Assembly polls. He had also urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to immediately ban rallies and public meetings of political parties.

Apart from Uttarakhand, Assembly elections are scheduled to take place in Uttar Pradesh, Goa, Punjab and Manipur.

On December 30, Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra had said that all the political parties in Uttar Pradesh have unanimously agreed that the Assembly polls in the state should be conducted as per schedule while following coronavirus protocol.

Even as the Omicron wave began last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav were still busy campaigning, appearing unmasked in rallies attended by thousands of people.

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 had 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.