Voters in 13 Indian states will go to polling stations on Maundy Thursday in parliamentary elections after the High Court in Tamil Nadu state dismissed a petition from church officials to reschedule the date.
The federal Election Commission has scheduled polling in 97 constituencies of 13 states on April 18 when Christians observe Maundy Thursday this year, starting their Easter triduum leading to Good Friday and Easter. Church officials in Tamil Nadu, a southern state with 4.4 million Christians and more than any of the other 12 states, petitioned the state High Court to move polling to another day.
The High Court dismissed the petition but asked the state Election Commission to ensure that polling does not hinder Christians’ prayers.
“Since the polling is fixed on Maundy Thursday, it is expected that the Election Commission will take adequate steps to ensure that people are allowed to pray in churches situated adjacent to polling booths without any hindrance,” the court said in its March 22 verdict. The 13 states holding polls on Maundy Thursday are Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Manipur, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Puducherry.
Archbishop Antony Pappusamy of Madurai, president of the Tamil Nadu Bishops’ Council, had petitioned for rescheduling, arguing that hundreds of Catholic government servants with polling duties will miss prayers.