The Supreme Court asked the Election Commission on Thursday to pass “necessary orders” on a representation seeking advancing of the voting time to 5 AM from 7 AM for the remaining phases of the Lok Sabha elections due to heat wave conditions and the onset of the holy month of Ramzan.
A plea in this regard was mentioned for urgent hearing before a bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi. The bench, also comprising justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna, took the petition on board and said, “The Election Commission of India is directed to pass necessary orders. The writ petition is disposed of in the above terms.”
The petition, filed by advocates Mohammad Nizamuddin Pasha and Asad Hayat, sought the advancement of polling hours by two to two-and-a half hours, and for voting to commence from 4:30 AM or 5 AM instead of the present 7 AM, in the remaining phases.
“The petitioners pray for a direction to the Election Commission of India to extend the polling hours during the fifth, sixth and seventh phases of the ongoing general elections, 2019 on May 6, May 12 and May 19, respectively, by 2-2.5 hours so as to commence at 4:30/5 AM (instead of the notified time of 7 AM) on account of the unprecedented heat waves prevailing in several parts of the country and the onset of the holy month of Ramzan,” the plea said.
The plea said that Ramzan, the holy month of fasting for Muslims, is likely to commence from May 6, the day of fifth phase of voting in the Lok Sabha elections. It said that during Ramzan, Muslims keep fast and do not consume food or water from one and a half hours before dawn till dusk every day.
The petitioners said they had given a representation to the Election Commission on Monday in this regard, but the poll panel has not responded to it. “On April 29, a representation was made to the respondent (EC) on this behalf bringing the aforesaid facts to its notice and requesting it to extend the polling hours in the fifth, sixth and seventh phases of the general elections 2019 so as to commence at 4.30 or 5 am instead of 7 am but no response has been received so far,” the plea said.
Heat wave conditions
It also said that Indian Meteorological Department has issued warnings indicating severe heat wave conditions over the next few days, with temperatures rising up to five degree Celsius than normal in poll bound areas of Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, Delhi, Chandigarh, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh.
The plea said that the harsh weather conditions would make it difficult for Muslims to go out and vote. “In the intense heat, it will be very difficult for Muslim voters to queue up at the polling booths during the day in the intense heat to exercise their franchise. During Ramzan, most practising Muslims stay up for an early morning meal and sleep after the morning prayer,” it said.
“Thereafter, they avoid going out in the heat to the extent possible to avoid thirst, dehydration and the possibility of a heatstroke. Therefore, in the present weather conditions, a lot of Muslim will be unable to go out to exercise their franchise,” the plea said.
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