The Election Commission of India (ECI) has banned all victory processions by political parties on May 2, the day of counting of votes. The action was taken on the back of surging coronavirus cases across the country, and comes immediately after the Madras High Court criticised the Commission for “allowing political parties to aid the spread”.
The Madras High Court on Monday had castigated the Election Commission over the COVID-19 second wave in the country, holding it ‘singularly’ responsible for the spread, called it the “the most irresponsible institution” and even said its officials may be booked under murder charges. The EC allowing political parties to take out rallies and meetings had led to the spread of the pandemic, the court said.
“Were you [living] on another planet,” the first bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy asked the EC officials.
Elections had been held in four states—Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam and West Bengal and the Union territory of Puducherry. While voting is over in all the other states, the seventh of the eight-phase polling in West Bengal was held on Monday, with the last phase scheduled on April 29. Earlier, the Calcutta High Court had expressed dissatisfaction with the EC over the enforcement of COVID-19 health safety norms during the ongoing West Bengal assembly election process, including campaigning.
Irked over the submission of the EC counsel that all precautionary measures would be taken at the counting centres, the Chief Justice replied that the EC must be ‘singularly’ held responsible for the second wave of the pandemic spike in the country. The bench even said that EC officials may be booked under murder charges. The judges also orally warned that they would not hesitate to stop the counting of votes on May 2. “Public health is of paramount importance and it is distressing that constitutional authorities have to be reminded in such regard. It is only when a citizen survives that he will be able to enjoy the rights that a democratic republic guarantees”, the judges said.
Observing that the situation now is of survival and protection, the bench directed the Election Commission to file a detailed report by April 30 on the blueprint of COVID-19 protocol to be followed on the counting day. The court directed the commission for the blueprint to be filed after a detailed consultation with the state health department secretary.
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