September 20, 2020

KERALA: All-Party Meeting Calls for Postponement of By-Elections

N S Sajith

A DECISION to request the Central Election Commission to postpone the Kuttanad and Chavara assembly by-elections was taken on September 11, at an all-party meeting chaired by Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan. The unanimous decision to postpone elections was taken in light of the spread of pandemic.  Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan informed that a decision was also taken to request the state election commission to temporarily postpone the local self government elections.

The term of the 14th Kerala legislative assembly ends in May 2021 with elections scheduled for April as it has been in previous years. Therefore, the model code of conduct is likely to come into force by March, 2021.

If by-elections in Kuttanad and Chavara are held in November, this will only leave three months in office for elected member (December - February) which is negligible compared to election expenses. Due to the spread of Covid-19, all government machinery is bent towards the pandemic-relief efforts. Kuttanad and Chavara by-elections need not be held now and elections can be held in these constituencies with the forthcoming state elections in the next six months.

Section 151A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 states that a vacancy must be filled within six months. There has been a six-month vacancy in the Kuttanad constituency since December 20, 2019 due to the death of Thomas Chandy. There has been a vacancy in the Chavara constituency since March 8, 2020 due to demise of Vijayan Pillai. Both are from LDF.

Elections to local bodies are imminent. The new governing bodies of the panchayats, municipalities and corporations are expected to take office in November 2020 at the end of their five-year term. That is a constitutional obligation.

Due to the spread of Covid-19, all government machinery is bent towards the pandemic-relief efforts. Cases have spiked to 3,349 people testing positive yesterday. Elections may impose an unnecessary financial burden. Beyond that, it is irrelevant to the essence of popular representation. Considering all this, a consensus to postpone was reached at the all-party meeting.