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Bombay High Court Questions Election Commission’s Decision on Pune Lok Sabha By-Election

High Court demands clarification on reasons affecting Lok Sabha election preparations

MUMBAI | December 08, 2023: In a significant turn of events, the Bombay High Court has raised concerns over the Election Commission’s decision not to conduct the by-election for the Pune Lok Sabha constituency. The court questioned the rationale behind the decision, stating that the reasons provided for not holding the by-election are “manifestly unreasonable” and could impact the preparations for the upcoming general Lok Sabha elections.

The vacancy in the Pune Lok Sabha constituency arose with the unfortunate passing of MP Khasdar Girish Bapat on March 29. According to Section 151-A of the Representation of the People Act, the Election Commission is obligated to hold by-elections within six months from the date of the vacancy, i.e., by September 29. However, the Commission justified its stance, arguing that by-elections should not be conducted if the new MP would serve less than a year before the Lok Sabha’s term ends.

The Commission’s decision faced scrutiny as the first session of the current 17th Lok Sabha began on June 17, 2019, and is scheduled to conclude on June 16, 2024. The argument that the new MP would serve for more than a year seemed inconsistent with the legislative calendar.

Moreover, the court highlighted the provision for the Commission, in consultation with the Central Government, to decide the difficulty in conducting by-elections. However, this decision should be communicated through proper notification and after due consultation with the government. The court observed that in the case of Pune, the decision appeared hasty, and the commission’s claim that the by-election would impede preparations for the general Lok Sabha elections was not adequately justified.

Pune voter Sughosh Joshi, represented by Adv. Kushal Mor and Justice Gautam Patel, brought attention to the apparent violation of legal processes. The court expressed dissatisfaction with the Commission’s attempt to justify its decision based on legislative provisions.

The central government also concurred with the court’s concern, raising questions about the lack of due consideration in obtaining its consent. The court stated that the decision seemed unreasonable on the face of it and insisted that the Commission clarify its position on whether to conduct the by-election. The hearing on this matter is scheduled for Monday, where the court expects the Commission to provide a satisfactory explanation for its decision.

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