Lucknow: Counting of votes for the panchayat polls in Uttar Pradesh will be held on Sunday as the Supreme Court on Saturday refused to stay the process. The State Election Commission (SEC) said that the candidates and their agents will be allowed to enter the counting centres only if they have tested negative for COVID-19 in the 48 hours prior to the commencement of the counting process or taken both doses of the vaccine.

In a special urgent hearing on a holiday, a bench of justices AM Khanwilkar and Hrishikesh Roy passed the order after taking note of several notifications and assurances of the SEC that the COVID-19 protocols will be followed at all the 829 counting centres.

The Supreme Court’s direction came on a plea seeking a direction for observance of COVID-19 protocols during the counting of votes.

The apex court directed that there will be a strict curfew in the entire state till Tuesday morning and no victory rallies will be permitted, asking the SEC to fix the responsibility for observance of COVID-19 protocols at the counting centres on gazetted officers.

The SC directed the poll panel to preserve the CCTV footage of the counting centres till the Allahabad High Court concludes its hearings on the related petitions before it.

It also ordered that the government officials, candidates and their agents will have to produce RT-PCR test reports to show that they are COVID-19 negative before entering the counting centres.

UP’s Chief Secretary RK Tiwari held talks with teacher unions and the latter withdrew a call to their members to boycott the counting of votes. They placed a 10-point demand before the government and following assurances from the latter that the demands will be met, decided to take part in the counting process, a statement said.

In a letter dated April 29, the Uttar Pradesh Prathmik Shikshak Sangh (UPPSS) addressed to the chief minister and the state election commissioner, and said if the counting of votes on May 2 was not cancelled, the teachers will boycott poll duty.





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