Manipur violence: Supreme Court dismisses plea seeking voting arrangements for displaced voters

The Supreme Court today rejected a plea to ensure that around 18,000 persons who have been displaced due to the ethnic violence in Manipur, get to exercise their right to vote in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

A bench comprising Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud with Justice JB Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Misra said that the petition was lodged too late and it would be challenging for the Election Commission to make arrangements for enabling displaced persons to cast their votes just three days before the date of election on April 19.

The court in its order mentioned that the interference of this court at this belated stage would cause substantial impediments on the conduct of the ensuing Lok Sabha general elections in Manipur. Hence, they decline to interfere in this case, the court added.

The Court said that while the petitioner’s claim might be bona fide (in good faith), three days might not be sufficient for the Election Commission to make arrangements since Manipur is scheduled to go to polls on April 19.

The court noted that the configuration of arrangements made for casting of votes in the first round of voting on April 19 for the Lok Sabha seats in Manipur is completed and that it cannot be gainsaid that the ECI would require to make administrative arrangements within 3 days if the court allows the petition. 

The court underlined that it has been submitted that 1 17,000 have been displaced and they are situated in Kohima, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Mumbai and the grant of any such relief cannot be restricted to only these areas.

The court also clarified that they are emphasising these aspects because with 3 days remaining for the election, the course of action sought would be impracticable. It added that the claim of petitioner may be bona fide but it has policy control by the ECI which is constitutionally mandated to do so under article 324 of the constitution.

According to the plea, the violence in the northeastern state meant that several were forced out of their homes and are currently residing out of duress in other states. The plea also alleged that no arrangements have been made to ascertain that such Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) cast their votes in the elections.

The plea alleged that the EC has turned a blind eye towards the state of tens of thousands of Kuki-Zo-Hmar IDPs who are going to be disenfranchised without any arrangements for the exercise of their voting rights.

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