Chennai: The Madras High Court came down heavily on the Election Commission (EC) on Monday with scathing comments on how it was the “only institution” responsible for the second wave of the deadly coronavrius that is sweeping the country as it did not stop political parties from holding election rallies.
A bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy, hearing a petition on whether there were adequate Covid safety procedures in place during vote counting at the Karur constituency, went so far as to say, “Election Commission officers should be booked on murder charges probably.”
“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 maintained 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,” the Bench said. “Were you on another planet when political rallies were being held?” the chief justice asked EC’s standing counsel when he told the court that measures had been put in place to ensure Covid protocol during vote counting. The court has asked for a suitable blueprint from EC on how Covid safety norms will be followed on counting day while saying that it could even stop the counting of votes 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 order stated.
The measures must not be limited to Karur, the court insisted and said, “Similar appropriate measures have to be adopted at every counting centre 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 case listed the next hearing for April 30 when the EC’s blueprint must be placed on record before that, the court said.