SC directive to EC on poll timing

Braving the heat:People waiting to cast their vote at a polling station in Bihar’s Begusarai on April 29.PTI  

The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Election Commission of India to pass directions on a plea to advance the timing of polls from 7 a.m. to 4.30 a.m. or 5 a.m. in the next three phases of the general election, considering the heat wave and the Ramzan month. The fifth, sixth and seventh phases are due on May 6, 12 and 19, respectively.

The petition filed by two advocates said their 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, they said, was to ensure their equal participation in the democratic process, consistent with the principles of Article 14.

The petition said the India Meteorological Department has issued a temperature warning indicating severe heat wave conditions over the next few days in large parts of the country, with temperatures being up to five degrees Celsius above normal in Madhya Pradesh, eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, Delhi, Chandigarh, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh.

Several constituencies in each of these States are going to the polls in the coming phases.

“In this intense heat, it will be very difficult for Muslim voters to queue up at 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 heatstroke,” the petition said.