Jabalpur: The Madhya Pradesh High Court today stayed the counting of votes for the first phase of district panchayat elections in the state, which was to start tomorrow, till January 19.
The division bench of Justices Rajendra Menon and Alok Aradhe passed the order in response to the petitions filed by state Congress chief Arun Yadav, social worker Anurag Modi and Neeraj Singh Thakur seeking a stay on the counting.
The bench directed the state election commission to file an affidavit by January 19, the next hearing, specifying if it would face any difficulties if the vote counting was stayed/postponed.
Yadav's petition points to a circular of the SEC, issued on December 24, 2014, which changed the election programme.
The circular said the results will be declared after the entire 3-phase election was over but counting would take place after each respective phase ends.
The Congress leader claims this change was made after he made a representation pointing out that if the results were declared immediately after a phase, it will influence the voters' behaviour in the succeeding phase of election.
The petition says he is, however, not completely satisfied with the amendment. Even the counting of votes after each phase "will influence the voters and will not allow the free and fair elections", said his lawyers Hemant Shrivastava and Sanjay Kumar Patel.
Election Commission counsel Siddartha Seth opposed the petition, arguing that the panchayat elections are not held on the party basis, so the fear was unfounded.
The second phase is scheduled for January 31 and counting is to take place on February 4.