Amid the second wave of the pandemic sweeping across the country, in a special hearing the Supreme Court on Saturday refused to stay the counting of votes for panchayat polls in Uttar Pradesh.
Counting of votes for the UP panchayat polls is scheduled on Sunday, on a day when votes for Assembly elections in four other states and one Union Territory will also be counted.
The apex court decision follows several assurances and notifications issued by the UP State Election Commission stating that it will adopt all Covid-related protocols at the 829 counting centres in the state.
While passing the order, the SC bench comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and Hrishikesh Roy directed the state government to impose a strict curfew from Sunday till Tuesday, until the counting of votes concludes.
The SC has also banned all victory rallied in the state.
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.
The developments come in the backdrop of India logging a record 4,01,993 new Covid-19 infections and 3,523 fatalities on Friday.
The country also reported more than 66 lakh coronavirus cases in April, making it the worst month of the pandemic.
(With PTI inputs)