Bhubaneswar: The Election Commission of India on Thursday announced to hold by-election to the Athagarh Assembly seat on March 18.

According to the poll schedule, the notification for by-election would be issued on February 22 while the process for filing of nomination papers would start from February 22 and will continue till February 29. Scrutinization of the nomination papers will be on March 1 and the last date for withdrawal has been fixed to March 3.

The bypoll was necessitated after the Supreme Court on December 9, 2011, upheld the Orissa High Court decision cancelling the 2009 assembly elections in Athagarh constituency and ordering fresh polls there. On June 23, 2010, the High Court declared Ramesh Rout’s election from Athagarh in 2009 as “null and void”.

The apex court ruling unseated Rout, who got the ruling BJD’s backing in the 2009 polls after party nominee Ranendra Pratap Swain’s nomination papers were rejected at the eleventh hour. The high court said his papers were illegally rejected and ordered fresh elections. Rout was formerly an acolyte of Swain, but ever since he became an MLA both have been at loggerheads. Swain, a former minister and four-time MLA, had moved court against rejection of his nomination papers.