NEW DELHI/KOLKATA: The Election Commission on Wednesday said it will not allow candidates or their agents inside the counting centres if they don’t have a Covid negative certificate or a certificate of vaccination. The poll panel has also banned gatherings outside the counting venues on May 2.
“Candidates and their agents will be allowed (inside the counting centres) only if they have a negative RT-PCR test report that is not more than 48 hours old or documents proving they have taken both doses of a vaccine,’’ an official of the poll panel said.
It comes days after the Madras High Court censured the Election Commission over failure to maintain Covid protocols during the campaigning for the elections. The EC guidelines say all candidates must provide a list of their counting agents at least three days before the day of counting.
“Sitting arrangements for counting agents shall be made in such a way that between two counting agents, one shall be in PPE. Every counting official and security personnel will be provided with a mask, hand sanitiser, face-shield and gloves in addition to their prescribed items,’’ the order says.
The Commission said no more than two people will be allowed to accompany the winner or his/her authorised representative to receive the certificate of election from the returning officer. Also, there will be no victory procession.
The EC has directed the District Electoral Officers to organise Covid tests for candidates and their counting agents. Anybody violating instructions on Covid-19 measures will be prosecuted under the provisions of the Disaster Management Act and the Indian Penal Code.
The Madras High Court had on Monday pulled up the EC for failing to ensure Covid-appropriate behaviour during campaigning for the elections.
The court had warned that “at no cost can counting become a catalyst for a further surge’’.
The poll panel has to inform the high court on April 30 about steps it has taken to ensure a Covid-safe counting process.