New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: The Supreme Court on Saturday gave its permission to conduct the counting of votes for the Uttar Pradesh Gram Panchayat elections on May 1 after the state election commission assured it that all necessary COVID-19 measures and protocols will be followed.

In a special urgent hearing on a court holiday, a bench comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and Hrishikesh Roy passed the order after taking note of several notifications and assurances of the UP State Election Commission that COVID-19 protocols will be followed at the 829 counting centres in the state.

The apex court, however, directed that there will be strict curfew in the entire state during counting of votes till Tuesday morning and no victory rallies will be permitted.

It also asked the State Election Commission to fasten responsibility for observance of COVID-19 protocols at counting centres on gazettes officers.

The bench also directed the poll panel to preserve CCTV footage of counting centres in the state till the Allahabad High Court concludes hearing on related petitions before it.

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

The top court's direction came on a plea seeking direction for observance of COVID-19 protocols in counting of votes on Sunday in view of the second wave raging across the country.

Uttar Pradesh has been reporting massive surge in fresh COVID-19 cases.

Polling for the four-phased Panchayat elections in Uttar Pradesh ended on April 29.

The first phase on April 15 and the second round on April 19 recorded a turnout of 71 per cent. In the third phase on April 26, 73.5 per cent of registered voters turned out to exercise their franchise.

(With PTI inputs)

Posted By: Aalok Sensharma