An Indian court has urged the federal election commission and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to postpone state polls due early next year and ban large political gatherings to avoid a possible surge of omicron-fueled infections.
The Allahabad High Court, in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, asked the Election Commission of India to defer elections by as much as two months in view of a sudden surge in Covid infections, according to observations posted on its website.
Traditionally, the judiciary stays away from directing independent bodies like the poll panel or the executive on timing of elections. However, the comments came as Justice Shekhar Kumar Yadav observed his crowded room and the 400 cases lined up for hearing in a single day.
India is set to hold assembly elections in five states, including the most populous province Uttar Pradesh, early next year. The state is considered a political bellwether ahead of general elections in 2024.
As elections draw closer, political parties are mobilizing hundreds of thousands of people at rallies and meetings where it is impossible to follow pandemic protocols, the high court observed. If the trend is not checked, the country could witness horrific scenes that played out earlier this year during the second wave, Yadav added. Spokespersons of prime minister office and election commission could not be reached immediately.
India has recorded 358 cases of the newly-emerged omicron variant of the coronavirus, according to the health ministry. The country reported 6,650 new infections on Friday.
Modi reviewed the Covid situation and stressed the need to be vigilant and cautious. State governments have also enhanced the surveillance and announced fresh curbs on religious and social gatherings.
India’s brutal second wave of infections crippled the country’s healthcare system.