The petitioners Badri Narayan Singh and Jai Vardhan Narayan filed a writ petition seeking direction to the Election Commission to postpone or defer the upcoming assembly elections to be held in the State of Bihar in 2020 and to restrain the Election Commission from notifying the date for assembly election till further order of this Court given the pandemic situation. Since the date of the expiration of the Legislative Assembly of Bihar is 29.11.2020, the Election Commission has decided to go ahead with assembly elections in October 2020 and issued guidelines/SOPs for the same.
The petitioners contended that cases of coronavirus are only increasing every day and any conduct of elections in this period would only increase the spread of the disease. Also, the scare of the virus would frighten the voters from going into the voting booths resulting in less than 50% of votes, making a mockery of democracy. Calculations on the number of persons who would be able to vote with social distancing measures in place were given showing not more than 30% of the total voters would get a chance at polling. The second petitioner contended that on account of Covid-19 as well as flooding in multiple parts of the State, it would not be possible to make available the antecedents including the criminal record of the candidate standing for the assembly election and bio-data of the candidates to the voters that campaign contains the ideas that a candidate wishes to share with the people.
The Patna HC in the judgment held that the petitioner's assessment of the increase in the spread of the disease and increased loss of lives is completely unsubstantiated with no records. Also, there is nothing on the record to show that the Election Commission is or would be unable to ascertain these fundamental rights to the voters. Relying on Article 324 of the Constitution which vests the exclusive superintendence, direction, and control of elections in the Election Commission, held that only the Hon'ble Election Commission and not this Court has the authority to decide upon the date & schedule for the State Assembly Elections.
The petitioner has laid great emphasis on the fact that the fundamental rights of the voters under Article 19(1)(a), as well as independent candidates under Article 14, are under threat, warranting the interference of this Court seeking a mandamus for delaying the elections to the Legislative Assembly of Bihar. The court dismissed the above contention by way of Article 329 of the Constitution which provides a bar to the interference by Courts in electoral matters, further explain the term election matters via various judicial pronouncements.