New Delhi: A two-judge division bench of the Bombay high court asked the Election Commission (EC) why it has not conducted a by-poll for the Pune parliamentary seat in over eight months, the Indian Express reported.
The bench comprising Justices Gautam S. Patel and Kamal R. Khata said it prima facie disagreed with the EC’s rationale that the by-poll winner would only have a short tenure and that the poll would affect preparations for the 2024 general election, according to the report.
They said the court will issue orders on Monday (December 11) if it did not receive a satisfactory response from the EC.
The bench was hearing a petition by one Sughosh Joshi challenging the EC’s issuing directions not to hold a by-poll to the constituency, IE reported.
It became vacant in March after the death of its MP, the BJP politician Girish Bapat.
According to the Hindustan Times, the EC had invoked Section 151A (b) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 in August, one of the two exceptions to the rule that by-elections to parliamentary or assembly seats must be held within six months of their becoming vacant.
Clause (b) allows an exception in case “the [EC] in consultation with the [Union] government certifies that it is difficult to hold the [by-election] within the said period.”, and clause (a) in case the remaining term of a member in relation to a vacancy is less than a year.
Joshi learned of the EC’s decision after filing an RTI application, HT reported, adding that he had initially made a representation to the commission in September but to no avail.
The EC’s lack of a response also prompted Joshi to approach the high court, IE‘s report said.
He argued that the electors of the Pune constituency no longer had a voice in parliament, especially regarding local issues such as delays in metro and airport construction work, as well as traffic in the city’s Chandni Chowk area.
“There is visible administrative apathy to the governance concerns of the city and there are no representatives to fight for the citizens. The political class – both the ruling and opposition parties seem to not want to face the electorate,” HT quoted Joshi as saying.
He continued: “The [EC] exists as an independent body to enable and strengthen democracy. There was ample opportunity to hold the by-election in March. However, it has abdicated responsibility in not holding [a] by-election.”
Joshi pointed out that the EC had announced by-elections for seven assembly seats in August but not for the Pune Lok Sabha seat.