The Election Commission has rejected a plea that sought to advance voting timings to 4.30-5 am from 7 am to in the morning as the holy month of fasting for Muslims, Ramadan, begins. The EC said the polling hours cannot be stretched to pre-dawn hours and described it as practically impossible. Earlier, the Supreme Court had directed the EC to take a final call on the matter after a petition was filed by two advocates - Mohammed Nizamuddin Pasha and Asad Hayat - for an urgent hearing before the bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi.
The poll body, however, cited several reasons for not advancing the poll timings which include the time taken to set up the polling booth, conducting mock polling exercise, difficulty for the polling staff to reach the polling station at the scheduled time and the long stretch of polling hours.
The EC said that the voting hours have already been stretched to 11 hours as against the statutory eight hours for the convenience of all the sections of society and cannot be extended further.
The petition filed by Pasha and Hayat sought the advancement of poll timings for the three phases of Lok Sabha polls in the wake of the 11 hours fasting period that the Muslims are mandated to do. The heat wave in many parts of the country particularly central and north India make it all the more difficult to observe the fast for a period of one month.
On May 2, the Supreme Court bench headed by CJI Ranjan Gogoi had asked the EC to consider the issue.
Ramadan will begin in India from Tuesday in which the Muslims will fast from dawn to dusk, pray, engage in charitable work for one month. The dates of the commencement of the fasting month are fixed as per the Islamic lunar calendar. The southern state of Kerala observes Ramadan along with the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia from May 6. In the rest of India, Ramadan will commence from May 7. The month of fasting concluded with the celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr which is a time of feast and gratitude to God among the fasting Muslims.