Madras High Court came down heavily on the Election Commission of India for the surge in Covid-19 cases while commenting that the Election Commission officials should be tried for murder charges for its failure to stop abuse of COVID protocol in political rallies thereby contributing to the COVID crisis.
The division bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy held the Election Commission responsible for the second wave in the State.
The remarks were made while Madras High Court was hearing a petition raising concerns over whether adequate facilities are in place to ensure COVID-19 protocol during vote counting at the Karur constituency. About 77 candidates are contesting elections from the Karur Constituency.
Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee came down heavily on the Election Commission of India over its failure to act against political parties who were violating the protocol. “You are the only institution that is responsible for the situation today. No action against political parties taking rallies despite every order of the Court. Your election commission should be put up on murder charges probably!” he remarked.
The ruling stated, “Despite repeated orders of this court going on like a broken record at the foot of at least every election petition entertained that COVID protocol ought to be maintaining during the campaign time the significance of adhering to such protocol may have been lost on the Election Commission going by the puerile silence on the part of the Commission as campaigns and rallies were conducted without distancing norms being maintained and in wanton disregard of the other items of the protocol.”
However, standing counsel for the Election Commission of India, Advocate Niranjan Rajagopalan submitted that measures are being put in place to ensure COVID-19 safety norms are maintained during counting.
“Were you on another planet when political rallies were being held?” said CJ Banerjee.
The High Court also drew everyone’s attention to the concern that it had raised earlier on Thursday when it took so moto cognizance and registered a case to monitor the Covid handling in Tamil Nadu. The concern was about whether there is a plan in place to ensure Covid-19 protocol is maintained in all counting booths on the next counting day on May 2.
“At no cost can the counting result in a catalyst for a further surge, politics or no politics, and whether the counting takes place in a staggered manner or is deferred. Public health is of paramount importance and it is distressing that constitutional authorities have to be reminded in such regard. It is only when the citizen survives that he enjoys the other rights that this democratic republic guarantees unto him. The situation is now one of survival and protection and everything else comes second to it,” the bench noted.
The order further stated, “Similar appropriate measures have to be adopted at every counting center and it is upon regular sanitisation, proper hygienic conditions, the mandatory wearing of masks and adherence to distancing norms should any counting begin or be continued. The State Health Secretary and Director of Public Health should be consulted by Election Commission and the officer responsible in the State to put appropriate measures in place immediately.”
The matter has been posted for hearing on May 30.