The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Tamil Nadu Election Commission to hold local body polls in the state’s nine new districts by September 15, The Hindu reported.

A vacation bench of Justices Hemant Gupta and Aniruddha Bose heard the case. P Narasimha, the lawyer representing the state’s election commission, told the court that the delimitation exercise for the districts had been delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The court pulled up the state’s election commission for the delay. “Covid has become a good excuse in all matters,” it said, according to the newspaper. “For two years, you have not conducted the elections. Now you conduct the elections before the third wave arrives. We know the reality in these matters, unless and until political parties are ready, elections are not held.”

The court first directed the state’s election commission to hold the polls by August 31, but Narasimha said this was too soon. “Electronic Voting Machines will have to be brought from the Election Commission, and delimitation has to be done,” the lawyer said, according to NDTV.

The judges eventually allowed an extension. “We will give you time till September 15 to complete the election process,” they said. “It is only nine districts. If not done, we will initiate contempt action against the state poll body.”

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SC puts on hold local body polls in nine districts of Tamil Nadu, gives four months for delimitation

However, the court later removed the portion about contempt from its order after requests from the state election body.

In 2019, five new districts were created in Tamil Nadu. Tenkasi was carved out of Tirunelveli, Kallakurichi from Villupuram, Tirupattur and Ranipet districts from Vellore, and Chengalpattu from Kanchipuram.

In December that year, the Supreme Court had decided to put elections in these nine districts on hold so that the delimitation process could be completed in four months. Elections in the remaining areas were held on December 27 and December 30.

In December 2020, the Supreme Court gave Tamil Nadu a six-month extension to complete the delimitation exercise and hold elections in the nine districts.

Tamil Nadu voted for a new government in April. The results of the election in May saw the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam-led coalition return to power in the state after a 10-year gap.

Elections were also held in West Bengal, Kerala, Assam and Puducherry amid an unprecedented second wave of Covid-19 in the country.

On April 26, the Madras High Court had blamed the Election Commission for the surge in Covid-19 cases, adding that it should be booked on charges of murder for allowing rallies to continue in violation of safety protocols.