India

Rajya Sabja byelection to be held as per COVID protocol

The byelection to the Rajya Sabha seat in Kerala scheduled for August 24 will be held in accordance with the COVID-19 protocol and postal vote will be arranged if the legislator is COVID positive or in hospital or is unable to reach the Assembly for casting vote.

Guidelines have been issued and Legislature Secretary S.V. Unnikrishnan Nair, who is also the returning officer for the byelection, will inform legislators about the norms to be followed, Chief Electoral Officer Teeka Ram Meena said on Monday.

Medical units would be stationed on the Assembly premises during the days of submitting the nomination papers, scrutiny, withdrawal of the nomination and on the day of polling. Steps for antigen testing would also be made on these days.

A meeting chaired by Mr. Meena and attended by the returning officer, Secretary, Health, Rajan Khorbade, and nodal officer for the byelection Puneet Kumar discussed the implementation of the poll panel’s directive to ensure the pandemic protocol for byelections.

Postal vote would be allowed by the returning officer after securing the permission of the EC. Steps would be taken to sanitise the postal vote once it reached the returning officer. Those who had tested COVID positive, those in quarantine, and those with symptoms would have to inform the returning officer in advance.

Mr. Meena said those with symptoms would be allowed to cast their vote between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. after taking precautionary measures. Three chambers would be arranged separately for those without symptoms, those coming from containment zones, and those on quarantine but without symptoms. Physical distancing norms would be followed in all steps of the election process, the CEO said.

Those legislators showing symptoms should have to wear PPE suits, gloves, and N-95 masks while coming to cast their vote and would have to follow the notified guidelines and advice of health officials.

PPE suits, cotton mask, gloves, and sanitiser would be procured by the returning officer after informing the Secretary, Health, and the nodal officer.

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