No change in poll times, says Supreme Court

Plea sought greater ease in voting for fasting Muslims

May 13, 2019 09:43 pm | Updated 09:43 pm IST - NEW DELHI

A view of the Supreme Court of India in New Delhi

A view of the Supreme Court of India in New Delhi

The Supreme Court on Monday refused to advance the timing of polls from 7 a.m. to 4.30 a.m. or 5 a.m. for the seventh and last phase of the Lok Sabha polls, considering the heat wave and that it is the holy month of Ramzan during which Muslims fast during the day time.

A Vacation Bench of Justices Indira Banerjee and Sanjiv Khanna said a change in the poll timing would create logistical problems for the Election Commission of India (ECI).

Justice Banerjee told the petitioner-advocate, Mohammed Nizamuddin Pasha, that polling started as early as 7 a.m.

“People can come in the morning to cast their votes,” the court remarked.

The petition was originally filed before the fifth phase of the elections.

The court had referred the case to the Commission, asking it to pass necessary orders.

The EC, however, refused to change the timings. After which, Mr. Pasha approached the court again.

The petition said the sole object in public interest was to “increase voter participation in the electoral process” and to ensure “a convenient and fair opportunity to persons of all communities, particularly the Muslim community, to cast their vote”.

This sentiment, it said, was to ensure their equal participation in the democratic process consistent with the principles of Article 14.

The petition said the Indian Meteorological Department has issued a temperature warning, indicating severe heat wave conditions.

“In this intense heat, it will be very difficult for Muslim voters to queue up at the polling booths during the day to exercise their franchise... During Ramzan, most practising Muslims stay up/ wake up for an early morning meal called Sehri and sleep after the morning Fajr prayer. Thereafter, they avoid going out in the heat to the extent possible to avoid thirst, dehydration and the possibility of a heat stroke,”the petition said.

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