The Ministry of Home Affairs on Thursday allowed political gatherings in Bihar ahead of the Assembly elections, but with certain conditions, PTI reported. Political assembly would also be allowed in the constituencies where bye-polls are to be held.

The Assembly elections in Bihar will be held in three phases from October 28 to November 7 and the results will be announced on November 10. This is the first election to be held in the country during the coronavirus pandemic.

The order is a slight modification of the reopening guidelines issued by the Centre on September 30, which gave state governments the flexibility to permit social, religious and political gatherings of more than 100 persons from October 15.

Under the new directive issued by Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla, state governments would now be allowed to permit political gatherings on any date before October 15. These political events, however, can only be held outside containment zones.

“Now, therefore, in exercising the powers conferred under Section 10(2)(1) of the Disaster Management Act 2005, it is decided that the state governments concerned may permit political gatherings outside containment zones beyond the existing limit of 100 persons on any date before October 15, 2020, in those assembly/parliamentary constituencies only where elections are to be held subject to the following conditions,” the order issued by Bhalla said.

In closed spaces, political gatherings at a maximum of 50% of the hall capacity will be allowed, with a ceiling of 200 persons, the order added. Wearing of face masks, maintaining social distancing, provision for thermal scanning and use of hand wash or sanitizer will be mandatory.

Meanwhile in open spaces, gatherings would be held keeping in view the size of the ground and the space available. “State or Union Territory governments will issue detailed SOPs [standard operating procedures] to regulate such political gatherings and strict enforce the same,” the home secretary order said.