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The Hindu – Andhra Pradesh

‘The conduct of elections on the basis of previously updated electoral rolls is permitted under the law’

A division bench of the Andhra Pradesh High Court led by Chief Justice Arup Kumar Goswami and comprising Justice C. Praveen Kumar on Thursday dismissed a couple of writ petitions that challenged the State Election Commission (SEC)’s decision to conduct Gram Panchayat (GP) elections on the basis of 2019 electoral rolls.

They observed that since the elections were already notified under Section 11 of AP Panchayat Raj Act, the conduct of elections on the basis of previously updated electoral rolls is permitted under the law. Also, it is in compliance with the law declared by the Supreme Court.

Chief Justice Goswami said he would not go into the question of who (SEC or the State government) is responsible for the non-updating of the electoral rolls, at this juncture.

Advocate-General S. Sriram said the State has a narrative that the electoral rolls could not be updated due to non-compliance of SEC with Section 11 of the above Act, to which the court answered that it has no finding to render on the issue.

It may be noted that the State Election Commissioner N. Ramesh Kumar had, while announcing the GP election schedule earlier this month, stated that the commission was forced to adopt the 2019 electoral rolls due to the Panchayat Raj Department’s failure to update the old ones. As a consequence, nearly 3.60 lakh youth who attained 18 years as on January 1, 2021 would be losing the right to vote.

Aggrieved with this, Dhulipalla Akhila, a student from Nambur in Guntur district, and another one filed writ petitions in the High Court praying for directions to the SEC to suspend the election notification.

Their argument was that 3.60 lakh youth would not be able to cast their votes, which is a right envisaged under Article 326 of the Constitution. But, during Thursday’s hearing, the court refused to interfere with the election process at this stage.

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